Taking out the garbage will have a new meaning to Florida folks if Dade County environmentalists have their way.
To protest pop-artist Christo's plan to wrap 10 Biscayne Bay islands in miles of pink fabric, Jack Kassewitz, executive vice president of the National Wildlife Rescue Team, said yesterday he plans to cover the Dade County Courthouse Monday with 14,000 square feet of pink flamingo garbage bags.
"Actually, this is plastic they use to make trash bag material," he said. "As you get higher in the art world you go from garbage to trash."
The 35-year-old environmentalist said the idea for his project was obvious. "I wanted them to see how silly it is to do the same things to 10 islands."
Christo, the 47-year-old Bulgarian-born artist who has strung 200,000 square feet of nylon curtain across a Colorado valley, wrapped 1 million square feet of the Australian coast in fabric and constructed a 24-mile-long "running fence" along the hills of two California counties, already has received permission from state and local officials in Florida to wrap the uninhabited islands in 5 million square feet of pink polypropylene fabric this spring. The work, entitled "Surrounded Islands," is expected to create a larger-than-life impression of Monet's waterlilies, according to the artist, at an estimated cost of $1 million.
But Kassewitz says the only impression he and other environmentalists have is of endangered wildlife.
"There are 80 species of birds who live on those islands," he said. "From sand level to 200 feet offshore will be covered in plastic. One hundred percent of their habitat will be covered for two weeks.
I think it's ironic that an artist who is supposed to be sensitive to nature is, in fact, going to be committing a crime against nature."
Kassewitz said he had not obtained a permit to wrap the courthouse in pink plastic and expects to be arrested for his protest.
And no, says the environmentalist, he wouldn't call his trash bag wrapping--at a total cost, he claims, of $12 ("not including bail money")--art.
"If anyone who goes out and buys plastic to wrap something in is an artist, then the art community is in sad shape," he said.
Kassewitz said yesterday he was not alone in his concern. Other Dade County residents have threatened to tear down "Surrounded Islands" once it is erected. He added that Christo and local groups were trying to come to some sort of agreement over the controversial artwork, but so far, Kassewitz says he has made only one suggestion: Take the project to another town.
"Cleveland would be nice," he said. "Saigon would be a lot better." graphics/1&2photos: "Running Fence," by Christo, and the artist in 1978; Christo photo by TWP