This series of new work highlights Tarver’s continued interest in the history of colonialism and how it has affected the complicated narratives of contemporary black women in the western landscape. Employing scenes heavy with lush foliage and combining them with seductive domesticity, Tarver explores the problematic past of our ancestors and the impact of authentic versus inauthentic experiences.
Through examining parallels between slave trade channels and current cruise ship routes as well as travel advertisements and runaway slave ads, Tarver investigates the meaning of the word ‘escape’ - the escape of slaves from their captors in relation to the escape of the wealthy on luxury holiday trips to the tropics. The duality of this word accentuates the drastically different realities that individual cultures experience while also addressing the convoluted acceptance of a simplified colonial narrative.
In the large scale painting, Three Graces, Tarver was inspired by found photographs of three women in a 19th-century human zoo, which were failed attempts at understanding various indigenous populations through highly curated public exhibitions of humans in their “natural” habitat. While standing in their artificial environment, the women are surrounded by pineapples, bananas, and sugarcane - a symbol of agricultural cash crops that are directly related to the political, social and economic upheaval in areas that have long been colonized by Western civilization.
Through this exhibition, Tarver questions the authenticity of the current environment which has dramatically changed over time to satisfy contemporary needs. Looking at the present through the lens of the past, Tarver recognizes how the complexities of world history has compounded into modern-day reality and affect how we address our future.