Outdoor art brings old photos to life

Who knew performance art could be fun, engaging and get us outside to enjoy nature?

Visiting artist Ann Carlson brought it all together on a Stanford biological preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her Picture Jasper Ridge project earlier this month.

Ticket holders were bused from the Stanford campus to the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, where Carlson led them on a 70-minute silent hike to showcase the beauty and environmental diversity of the area.

In addition to the nature hike, archival photographs were recreated by more than 60 performers on or near the spot where the originals were taken.

Carlson explained the intent of her project like this:

Picture Jasper Ridge is a way to connect to the history we stand on. It’s an invitation to realize that every moment is part of a continuum of other moments, past and future. It’s a performance hike that is meant to be an exhilarating window into the heart of the land and its impact.”

The experience was well received by audience members. Some described the hike as moving and meditative. Charles Junkerman, the associate provost and dean of Stanford’s continuing studies, described it as “one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had.”

He continued:

“I was surprised by how emotional my reactions were. I actually felt shivers at a few of the stations.”

Sarah Curran, program director for the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts, also gushed about Carlson and her work:

“Ann opened up the gateways between the arts, sciences and history, and invited active participation from all parts of the campus. I knew Ann [would be] the right choice [for this].”

For an artist like Ann Carlson, those words, added to the successful culmination of her project, must sound so sweet.