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One Man's Portal in the Christo Storm

By Linda Hales
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 26, 2005; Page C02

The gates are gone.

Not the ones Christo and Jeanne-Claude installed in Central Park, though those are scheduled to come down Monday. We're talking about "The Somerville Gates," a miniature installation of 13 gates created in a loft in greater Boston and exhibited online by the self-styled "Hargo."

"The Somerville Gates," which are just 3 1/2 inches tall, were arrayed along the dinnertime path taken by the artist's cat. A Web page about the installation attracted 4 million visitors in a week, substantially increasing the Internet bill of its creator, Geoff Hargadon, an arts-minded financial services expert in Somerville, Mass. And so, on Wednesday, as the site had promised, "the maid" came. The gates were gathered up and, presumably, the floor swept.

Hargadon's gates came down Wednesday. Christo's gates have inspired a wave of things orange, including the Container Store's Amac boxes, left. (Clockwise From Above: Mark Lennihan -- AP; By Geoff Hargadon; T)

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Only the photos Hargadon took and the 13 tiny orange gates -- and the cat -- remain.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "The Gates" have sparked a passion for saffron. In the decorative context, House & Garden splashed orange paint across the cover of its March issue. The Industrial Designers Society of America put a bright orange George Nelson clock on the cover of its quarterly, Innovation.

The Container Store sent out a trend alert and marketing pitch declaring, "Orange is all the rage right now." It was hard not to like its group of orange plastic Amac boxes stacked like a miniature skyline. That's what midtown Manhattan might look like if Christo and Jeanne-Claude really let themselves go.

But no one has displayed a more inspired homage to "The Gates" than Hargadon. With his wife, Patricia La Valley, he created the Christo-like installation for friends to view at www.not-rocket-science.com.

He made his gates from wood dowels purchased at Home Depot, bits of corrugated plastic, a little glue and orange tempera paint. When in place, the little gates marked a feline path into the front hall, up the stairs, under the bed and to the bowl of Edie, a 15-year-old domestic longhair cat.

The Web site noted wickedly that "The Somerville Gates" took two people about .0228 years and $3.50 to build, while Christo's 7,500 gates required 26 years of planning, $21 million and 600 workers to install. But no dismissal of Christo's effort was intended.

"It's just a funny thing," Hargadon said by phone from Somerville, which is next door to Cambridge. "If Christo had put up a dozen gates in a Midwestern state, then 'The Somerville Gates' would never have happened. People just got caught up in it."

He plans to keep six and give six away. One will go to Rebecca Bailey, dean of the arts school at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., who was the first to ask. She acted after friends returned from Central Park and expressed ambivalence about Christo's gates.

"When I saw 'Hargo's' Web site, it made my friends' reaction more understandable," Bailey explained yesterday in an e-mail. "He had really nailed why the Central Park gates might make you feel a little bit guilty for having enjoyed the experience. It was a whole lot like knowing in your heart that you lusted after Imelda Marcos's collection of shoes because there were so many of them and they were so pretty, or believing that the recent Trump nuptial extravaganza was a perfectly reasonable expression of love and devotion."

The 13th gate will be auctioned on April 2 to benefit Massachusetts College of Art.

"If the Smithsonian wants one of them," Hargadon offered, "I would drive it down."

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