People: Feb. 2, 1981

"It was an uncontrollable, instantaneous vibration" that struck Belgian Artist Jean Verame, 44, in the Sinai Desert. The Sinai's relief is crazy," he says, "its density is fabulous." He simply had to paint it. But not on canvas. The artist's plan was to decorate the desert —specifically, the 5-sq.-mi. Plateau of Hallaoui—with patterns and fields of cobalt blue paint. "Blue," he explains, "because this color does not exist on the earth's surface." Despite impressive credentials —Verame had already festooned a dried riverbed in France and a mile of the Corsican coast—it took...

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