Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Performance Art/Theater 1998

Ann Carlson

A portrait of Ann Carlson wearing a white button down shirt, black pants, black shoes, and blue glasses. She crouches on a grassy floor and looks to her right at something beyond the camera. Only her body is in color but the background of grass and trees is all black and white.
Photo illustration by L.A. Cicero.
  • 1998 Grants to Artists
  • Performance Art/Theater
  • Dancer, Choreographer, Performance Artist
  • Born Evanston, IL, 1954
  • Lives in Palo Alto, CA

I so much appreciate the work of the Foundation and remain deeply grateful to have received the support.

- Ann Carlson, May 1, 2000

Artist Statement

I make performance. I begin with an image, an idea, a movement, or a story. I love the functional, basic, "naïve" movement of the human body. I love the human body working, playing, getting up, sitting down, gestures that accompany speech or sport, worship, or stillness. I love reframing what is familiar in order to re-see it. Whether it's a photograph, or a dog, a mountain, or a lawyer; I love making work that opens the heart and invites all aspects of this messy life into a new arena.

- 2014


Ann Carlson's work borrows from the disciplines of dance, performance, theater, visual, and conceptual art. Her work often dismantles conventional boundaries between artist and subject. Carlson's work takes the form of solo performance, site-specific projects, ensemble works for dance companies, as well as theatrical works and performance/video.

Carlson's time spent as a guest artist at Stanford University inspired her work The Symphonic Body (2013). This work builds on Carlson's twenty-five year practice of developing works that are made with and performed by people gathered together by a common profession, activity, or shared passion. The first work of this series, Sloss, Kerr, Rosenberg & Moore (2007), is made with and performed by four New York attorneys. The Symphonic Body is a performance/orchestral work made entirely of gestures. Carlson shadowed seventy-eight people from across campus—students, professors, staff, ground service workers, deans, and provosts––and built gestural portraits for each individual based on the motions of their workday.

Carlson's work has been seen in theaters, galleries, museums, and concert halls, as well as in hotels, swimming pools, and landscapes throughout the United States, Europe, and Mexico. She has also made a number of performance works with animals. Carlson's collaboration with video artist Mary Ellen Strom, resulted in several single channel performance videos that are held in private and museum collections. In addition, Carlson/Strom made a large-scale site-specific work, Geyserland (2003), in which the audience went on a train and traveled twenty-five miles over the Bozeman Pass in Montana.

Subsequent to receiving her FCPA grant, Carlson received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2003), a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (2003), a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies Fellowship at Harvard University (2004), a Rockefeller Seed Grant, two American Masters Awards, support from Creative Capital's MAP fund program (2005, 2014), three awards from the National Choreographic Initiative, and a Doris Duke Award for New Work (2015). In 2013, Carlson was invited by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation to be an artist-in-residence on Captiva Island, Florida. She has also been a guest artist at the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Art Performance. Previous to receiving her FCPA grant, Carlson was the recipient of a three-year choreographic fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1989-91) and received the first California Institute of the Arts Herb Alpert Award in Choreography (1995).

Carlson earned a B.F.A. in Modern Dance from the University of Utah in 1976 and an M.F.A. in Dance from the University of Arizona in 1983.

A performer wearing a full body suit made of grass lays on the grass with their eyes closed. A bit of a white shirt peaks through around the neck of the grass suit and the performer wears red sneakers.
Performance still from FCPA-supported Grass, Bird, Rodeo, 1998. Photo by Mary Ellen Strom.
A performer wears a suit made of dollar bills and plastic which covers their head. They wrap their arms around their back and bend forward slightly. Their legs are bare. In an otherwise blank white space, there is a black chicken standing next to the performer.
Chicken: A Dance in Photography. Photo by Young Suk Suh.
FCPA-supported work Night Light, 2000.
Sloss, Kerr, Rosenberg & Moore (The Lawyer Piece), premiered 1986.