ArtAspen commissioned artist Adrienne Elise Tarver on making ‘In Fertile Shadows’
Nobody experiences the ArtAspen art fair quite the same way.
Depending on how you navigated the floor, depending on the crowds, depending on what catches your eye, you may have left the 2019 fair — which ran July 25-28 — talking about Anthony James’ dizzying optical illusion sculpture installations, the uncanny cardboard pulp sculptures and furniture of Domingos Totora, the irresistible pop culture riffs of painter Tyler Sean and street artist Skyler Grey, or all those Warhols, Hirsts and Harings peppering the show.
But everybody who entered the transformed Aspen Ice Garden for ArtAspen’s 10th outing had an experience with Adrienne Elise Tarver’s “In Fertile Shadows.” Everyone walked through this site-specific installation, strung from the ceilings and walls of the fair’s entry hallway.
The piece, fashioned in jungle-green paints and canopies constructed of hardware supplies, is part of an ongoing body of work for Tarver exploring migration through plant life — thinking about how plants are moved and domesticated.
The artist made “In Fertile Shadows” with simple window screens and caulk, then painted its five large pieces.
“I love the hardware store as much as the art store,” Tarver said of her matierals at the ArtAspen opening July 25. “Over the course of my career I’ve had to unlearn a lot of the value system that we place on materials.”
Likewise with plants. She’s been exploring why we value certain plants more than others, why some are considered weeds and some not, and what human intervention has done to our perception of plantlife.
Based in New York, Tarver is the director of the HSA Gallery at the Harlem School for the Arts, where she is also director of art and design. Her multidisciplinary work with flora landed her on ArtNet’s 2017 “Emerging Female Artists” list. The leaders of ArtAspen selected Tarver for their first commissioned artist, and expect to keep the project going with different artists annually.
For the unusual ArtAspen corridor in the converted ice hockey rink, Tarver embraced the idea of arrivals, of what you do after setting foot in a new place — whether you’re a colonialist or a viewer arriving at an art fair.
“I’m thinking about the idea of discovery — that childhood wonderment you have at discovering a garden, that innate desire to explore is something that’s common in everybody,” she said. “It came down to this idea of making a planting that allows transparency and allowed people to walk around it and be in it.”
Tarver has been working with similar materials on plant-related works for about five years, though the forms have evolved. Currently, she is beginning to try to make free-standing sculptures in the ode of “In Fertile Shadows.”
“I don’t see stopping anytime soon,” she said. “But my work does evolve and materials come from whatever I need at the time.”