Jana Harper | You Call It A Cloud

The Cloud Story Project (2015)

[Click here for views of the exhibition]


We all share a fascination with the sky and the transience of clouds. Hermann Hesse referred to clouds  as, “the eternal symbol of all voyaging, of every quest and yearning for home.” Clouds are of universal interest yet their significance and meaning is wide open to interpretation.

The Cloud Story Project explores the connections and differences in how we view, experience, remember, and represent clouds. In this iteration of the project, I asked people at the Nashville Public Library to share personal stories about clouds. Their stories were recorded, transcribed, and in most cases, edited to under 300 words. I then typed them on data collection forms with an old Remington Rand typewriter. This enabled me to enter each story line by line and letter by letter, sensing the resonance of each original experience.


I am fascinated by my mother’s fascination with clouds. Over a period of just a few years, she took thousands of photographs of the sky, mostly from the deck of her house looking out over the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado. As she processed the film and archived the contact sheets, she circled and checked various images. Her notations remain mysterious to me, but for her these marks traced portals to alternate realities. When she was diagnosed with Bipolar I, it was tempting to explain her obsession with clouds as a mere symptom of mental illness. For me, however, these markings raise profound questions about the nature of reality and what we consider “normal” or not. They remind me of the plurality of human experience, the fact that multiple realities can coexist simultaneously.

Click here to view individual cloud stories