Slightly hidden, in an underground location, you’ll find a new art installation adorning the Cow Tunnel underpass along the Path 22, near the entrance of the Jackson Campus of Teton Science Schools.
Jackson Hole Community Pathways, Prospect Studio, and Jackson Hole Public Art joined together to create this one-of-a-kind work of art. The project is not only beautiful, but it has also prompted a valuable art history lesson, as well as illuminated the birth of modern cinema. The inspiration for the design of the mural was the innovative photography of Eadweard Muybridge, who proved horses could fly, even if it was just for a minute.
Muybridge started his project The Horse in Motion, in 1872 and its outcome has forever changed the world of photography. He was asked by Lealand Stanford, a thoroughbred racehorse owner, to document the theory that a galloping horse lifts all four hooves off the ground at one point in its stride. Mr. Stanford was not interested in anything other than the physiology of the horse as it moved, in an effort to influence his breeding and training regimens, but Muybridge saw this as an entirely new direction for his art.
To prove the theory, Muybridge set out to present simultaneous views of the moving subject; a new treatment of motion across time and space that challenged imagination and commonly held beliefs. He set up a bank of cameras and their shutters were triggered by the horse galloping over the tripwires on the ground. When the images were laid out sequentially, they had recorded the minuscule span of time in a series of stop-motion-like images, the first of their kind. The images were captivating enough, but as a means for his audience to fully experience the groundbreaking work he invented the zoopraxiscope. This allowed him to project animated versions of his still photographs as short moving sequences. Muybridge became the father of motion photography, a precursor to modern cinema.
The architect team at Prospect Studio wanted to create a sense of movement in the tunnel, as well as honor the traditional use, as a means to move cattle. The idea of using Muybridge’s “The Horse in Motion” as inspiration was a natural fit, with a few tweaks. In an effort to streamline the painting process they decide to create stencils. “To design our cow stencils, we took influence from a handful of cow cave paintings and made a ‘Frankenstein’ of selected stylistic parts. Once we had our base cow drawn, we made eight unique poses to set it in motion. These eight stencils were painted on the walls by a team of 15 architects from across Wyoming.” Once the stencils were completed, two students from Teton Science Schools Mountain Academy, Dolyn Kinney and Augustine Porter, were invited to embellish the monochromatic cows with colorful paint.
The tunnel pays homage to Muybridge’s inventive use of photography and the unique history behind the creation of the tunnel to move cattle through the valley, it melds the seemingly disparate. The idea that your geographical place is not only a backdrop but it can be the lens through which you learn about art and history from a century ago is firmly situated in the Place-Based Educational experience. There is something very fitting about the innovation of a new technology that documented fleeting moments represented at the entrance of the TSS campus. Place is what grounds the ecological, cultural and economic perspectives of a community, a fleeting moment in time.
Resources for further learning:
Resources for further learning:
To learn more about Eadweard Muybridge visit: Smithsonian American Art Museum
Buckrail Local News coverage of “Cow in Motion” mural
The Horse in Motion first film footage, 1878