"Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like [them perhaps] in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows." - W.E.B. DuBois

Intrigued by the spaces we live in and the inefficacy of the barriers to protect our lives within them, I explore notions of insider, outsider and the other while looking for the line between intrusion and observation; voyeur and viewer.

My recent work explores the life of a woman from a found black and white photograph. Young, black, female, wearing glasses and facing the camera, she felt both familiar and distant at the same time. Enticed by her anonymity, I’ve been creating the narrative of her life in paintings and documented her home and possessions, built as miniatures, through photography and video.

In my work, I seek to exploit our curiosity and fear of what is within the barriers and question why and what is gained (and at the same time lost) once we’ve looked inside. The urge to explore, whether looking into the neighbor’s window or a colonizer conquering ‘undiscovered’ territory, implies a sense of prerogative of the viewer and disregard for the privacy of the other. What is found beyond the barriers cannot be reported objectively, as the perspective on either side of a wall is fully dependent on context. I’m interested in the space where looking becomes a transgression and what is seen reveals more about the viewer, than the viewed.


Adrienne Elise Tarver is a multi-media artist living and working in New York. Creating installations, paintings, photographs, and videos, her work examines the psychology of space while exploring notions of insider, outsider and the other. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and BFA from Boston University and has worked and exhibited in solo and group exhibitions around the world including Chicago, New York, Australia, South Africa, and Italy.

Learn more about the artist at

Read "The Numinous Artwork of Adrienne Elise Tarver" by Lisa Volpe.