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Geoff Hargadon's Somerville Gates stood in all their fame on Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone's desk on 'Hargo Day' yesterday.
Geoff Hargadon's Somerville Gates stood in all their fame on Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone's desk on "Hargo Day" yesterday.

Tiny takeoff on Christo proves gateway to glory

Page 2 of 2 -- Another, who signed his e-mail Marcus Cade, authored haiku:

''tiny orange gates

kitty peregrination

I was happy once"

And then there were cheers for his city. ''Having grown up in Somerville and seeing it through its awkward years -- i.e.: 'The All-American City' and 'Slum-erville' -- I am finally able to dig my old cheerleading jacket out of mothballs and proudly tell the world that, yes, I am a product of THAT Somerville, the one with 'The Gates.' I feel reborn."

Hargadon, the man, not the star, is a low-key guy, unlike the Christo of Manhattan's The Gates. A former standout soccer player at Harvard University, Hargadon lives with his Jeanne-Claude, wife Patricia LaValley, and Edie in a Somerville loft. LaValley's hair these days is dappled with saffron highlights.

''I prefer to call it 'Penny,' " she explained. ''The color of pennies."

He has two daughters, ages 18 and 22, and Hargadon said the closest he ever came to fame before this was having an article he wrote about crosswalks published in the Beacon Hill Times.

Hargadon has dabbled in art for years as a hobby, exhibiting occasionally in the South End. ''Balance" was an installation of some 600 ATM receipts. A friend who purchased ''Balance" for $150 at a benefit art auction called this week to talk about how grateful he is, now that Hargadon's a big name, to own one of his pieces.

''He said he's glad he got in on the ground floor," Hargadon said.

Diminutive though they may be, Hargadon's gates are inspiring serious criticism. His boss at UBS compared The Somerville Gates to the work of Marcel Duchamp, one of whose pieces is a urinal.

''It's the question of 'What is art? What is acceptable?"' said Donald R. Stanton, a UBS senior vice president who is a former board member of the Museum of Fine Arts and a current trustee of the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park.

Hargadon has built up something of a following at the financial company. His assistant, who fielded dozens of calls from co-workers during the past week wondering where they can catch Hargadon next, has dubbed him ''our resident rock star."

As he contemplates his next artistic endeavor, Hargadon says fans should not expect ''The Somerville Umbrellas" made with cocktail garnishes or ''The Surrounded Island" in a kitty litter box. (Christo and Jeanne-Claude unfurled 3,100 umbrellas in Japan and California to create ''The Umbrellas" and wrapped fabric around islands in Florida to create ''Surrounded Islands.")

''It would be unfortunate for me to be pigeon-holed as Christo's satirist," Hargadon said. ''I'll probably do something else with ATM receipts."

In the office of Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone yesterday afternoon in Somerville, Hargadon greeted about two dozen admirers, who munched on orange foodstuffs, including Cheetos, cheddar cheese, and cantaloupe.

The mayor made Feb. 24, 2005, Hargo Day in the city of Somerville, presenting Hargadon with an official declaration.

''Hargo Day was established to recognize the importance of thrift, ingenuity, and artistic parity," Curtatone read from the declaration. ''Hargo Day was established to also recognize the human capacity for appreciation, wonder, and awe that can be achieved when small plastic things are arranged in a certain order near and around a cat."

The mayor also praised Hargadon's all-Somerville approach: He purchased his materials at a Somerville Home Depot store, used Somerville labor (his own and his wife's) and displayed the work on Somerville-tax-paying property (his house).

''What a big day for the city of Somerville," the mayor effused, shaking Hargadon's hand vigorously amid orange balloons.

The question asked by nearly everyone in the room was, Have you seen the Other Gates? Then, What did you think?

''I think they're fantastic!" his rote response went. He and his wife drove down to Manhattan Saturday.

''You know what really amazed me about it? It was just such an obsessive project."

Donovan Slack can be reached at 

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