Adrienne Elise Tarver is an artist living in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Exceedingly bright, charismatic, inventive, and engaging, speaking with Adrienne is like relaxing on your favorite leather couch with an old friend and a good glass of wine. We suspect that everyone she meets feels this way.
“Everyone has a perspective… I think about the uniqueness of perspective and the inability to find a singular truth when recounting history...
...we all have unique ways of seeing things and experiencing the world informed by our lives, identity, and history. These are things I think about in my tropical works and the work that revolves around the story of [a fictional woman] Vera Otis... I connect memory to this [because] the memory of a place, object or material informs our perspective and changes the narrative we create.”
That’s a fraction of insights discussed during a casual conversation about history, mythology, colonial legacies and her collaboration with Minor History. From kid entrepreneur to imaginative artist, her work challenges the idea of materials, artforms and conventional executions.
“Before [graduate school] I had always had this separation [in my practice] between ‘fine art’ and ‘the craft part.’ I grew up sewing and there would always be fabrics at home and wood, and I had never considered them as being in the work.”
Now, Adrienne’s interdisciplinary art practice is deeply embedded in the materiality of the everyday object. She realized the beauty and visual stimulation provided by childhood crafts, noting, for example, that she “sewed as a kid—made my own purses… I also had a friendship bracelet making business during summer camp. People would select their colors and I’d make the design and create the bracelet.
Then in 5th grade, I started a pencil decorating business— in general, I always had a lot of arts and crafts around.”
Reconsidering her craft and art practice, Adrienne says that after grad school she was “fully [able to] accept the idea that anything can be a[n art] material. I have no hierarchy in my brain about it.”
Yet it was her training in fine art at Boston University and School of the Art Institute of Chicago that is the foundation of her mature work. This blossomed into a hybrid of materials and inventive techniques that break the mold of traditional canvas and paint for a three dimensional, painterly experience. She makes use of her childhood training in craft, her endless curiosity, and her intuitive sense of architectural space in her most recent work: large-scale installations of densely painted plants.
Adrienne’s recent installation at Victori + Mo gallery reinterpreted traditional trompe l’eoil through materiality. It used wire mesh as a support structure for thickly painted tropical and domestic plant images that interrupt our normal experience of the reality in her installations, forcing viewers to physically engage by ducking, weaving, and climbing over the pieces as if wading through the dense fauna of a jungle environment. Yet these plants appear ethereal. The painted vines and leaves hover, magically unsupported. “When we see a window we tend to omit the screen. It’s easy to ignore what’s actually in front of you.” Adrienne explained that the perception “of delicacy overlooks a very strong material.
She employs this same playful approach in the design of her leaf clutch for Minor History. The clutch, directly inspired from components of her work in the Victori + Mo Show, appears delicate and ephemeral but it is made out of durable, reliably crafted material that only improves in quality over time.
“I loved the idea of making a Minor History bag so much because these bags will grow into your perspective with you. They become unique to you, to your experiences. They develop into souvenirs of moments and migrations and life.”
Material objects, according to Adrienne, hold onto the memory of those people that held onto them. Material takes the impression of the time and the people that happen around it. This can be painful and pleasurable simultaneously; the past is present in our senses. In touching, looking, living with our objects, we both revive history and create it.
Her line of Minor History bags display the playful urgency with which she approaches her subject: the camouflaged wilderness in the domestic. Gentile, feral, and ultimately, beautiful.
Adrienne is currently a resident at the Lower East Side Printshop and works as Director of the Art & Design department and of the HSA Gallery at the Harlem School for the Arts (HSA). “Every teacher has a favorite age,” Adrienne admitted, “mine is late middle school to early college. The teen years. I like that age because students are intelligent, they’re excited, and they are still very open to ideas, but they’ve developed the skills to build on things. They surpass you in so many ways, which is exciting to me. I want to be impressed by my students, and I am, constantly.”