Dinner Gallery is proud to present Where the Waters Go, an exhibition featuring new works by Adrienne Elise Tarver. This marks her fourth solo exhibition with the gallery. 

Central to Tarver’s practice is an interest in the visibility and complexities of the black female experience. This new body of work explores the intersection of identity, interwoven narratives and aspirational spaces through the lens of complicated histories. 

Recalling black actresses of the 1920s through 1960s, such as Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne, and Hattie McDaniel, Tarver develops the narrative of her recurring fictional character, Vera Otis. Depicting scenes of leisure around the pool and tranquil interiors, Vera enjoys the comforts of a home that blends together historic imagery of the Tarver Plantation, a southern estate sharing the artist’s namesake, and iconic Hollywood residences. Here, Tarver uses these sources to confront the inherent dualities that exist within their historical backdrops and considers the origin stories as well as the power dynamics that have shaped these identities.

The color palette within Where the Waters Go signals a discrete shift for Tarver. A dreamy haze saturates her paintings as they converge and negotiate between multiple dichotomies - old and new, real and imagined, wild and manicured. Reminiscent of a distant memory reminding us of the past or perhaps a fading dream of the future, the shifting of liminality sheds light on the constraints and anticipations entwined within each realm.  

Similar to Vera’s story, the artist is continually returning to her interest in the fraught histories of the tropics and subtropics as symbols of desire and aspiration. In looking at the voyeuristic tendencies and fantasies of exoticsim, long perpetuated by Western civilization, Tarver questions historical legacies and their ramifications.

Referring to Du Bois’s post-Reconstruction concept of double consciousness, a term used to describe the feeling of reconciling a person’s social role, identity and internal ambitions, Tarver reflects on a world of dueling physical and societal aspirational spaces. The house contains diverging perspectives of the slaver and enslaved while also unraveling the entanglements between public personas and private realities.

Through the eyes of Vera, emerges the imagined stories of the domestic laborer, the entertaining seductress, and the spiritual matriarch. Tarver continues to search for belonging by tracing her familial roots through this process, and uses Vera as a conduit for examining these spaces as well as embodying lost or unwritten stories. By doing so, she encourages viewers to contemplate the interconnectedness and intricacies of identity in contemporary society.