Stories of Shadows expands upon an iteration of the artist’s Eavesdropping series in which Tarver constructed a fictional narrative around a found photograph of a black woman. Wearing glasses and facing the camera, this woman’s anonymity captivated Tarver, who created a fictional identity for her including details about her domestic life. Tarver named the woman Vera Otis (“veritas,” or, truth) as a reminder that nothing about her is, in fact, true. In many ways, Vera Otis acts as a surrogate for Tarver who, as a woman of color, finds Otis’s life a comforting place to imbue her hopes and fears upon.
Building on the work from the Eavesdropping series, Stories of Shadows will fill in more of the noirish mystery of Vera’s life through eight immersive video works, or, “vignettes” depicting her home environment, played on a loop and projected on the gallery wall. The vignettes are designed to operate independently of each other and out of any prescribed sequence.
To complement the moving image works, a deconstruction of the bedroom from the model house featured in the filmed vignettes will augment the narrative built around Vera’s identity. Composed of elaborate dioramas built inside moving boxes placed throughout the gallery space, the life of this character will be manifested physically for the first time, but only in a limited, circumscribed manner, which provides more questions than answers.
The furniture is an amalgamation of patterns and styles—a bastardized mid-century modern aesthetic—but it’s unclear if that is a product of the time period or that aesthetic’s current popularity. Populated by Eames chairs and Noguchi tables and sculptures, yet devoid of technology, the house exists out of time. Done purposely, Tarver invites the viewer to form their own interpretation of Vera Otis’ narrative from assumptions based on surface observations.
As an intimate reaction to found photography and female-centric domesticity, Stories of Shadows evokes the work of Lorna Simpson and Laurie Simmons. In line with the meticulous, filmic creation of built environments found in the work of Thomas Demand, Gregory Crewdson, and Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Stories of Shadows exploits our curiosity of others and what lays beyond the barriers they construct, and questions what is gained, and what is lost, once we’ve looked inside.
Following Stories of Shadows, Tarver will receive a second exhibition at Victori + Mo on February 17 – March 19, 2017 where she will continue to explore themes of voyeurism and otherness moving between innocent observance toward moral intrusion. For the February exhibition, Tarver will create an installation of paintings and sculptures forming a jungle which one has to navigate through, while alternating between being the voyeur and the object of desire.