Tavares Strachan Goes Big

Tavares Strachan

Tavares Strachan’s You Belong Here, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

Last October in New Orleans, a flock of art patrons, museum directors, andjournalists gathered on a dock overlooking the Mississippi River, where the artist Tavares Strachan’s 100-foot-long, 22-foot-high neon text sculpture You Belong Here floated on a barge. It was an art world event, but Strachan is more concerned with creating transportive experiences for an audience that doesn’t get to see his art, or much art at all—especially not with a glass of champagnein hand. The conceptual artist’s best known work, The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want (2006), is a 4.5-ton block of ice that was harvested in the Arctic and shipped, via FedEx, to his native Bahamas, where it was displayed in a solar-powered freezer at his former elementary school. Born inNassau, Strachan, 35, didn’t stray far from home, or use a computer, until he left for art school in Rhode Island at 19. “The moves I make now are driven by those thoughts of getting off the island,” he explains. Since then, he has also explored the physiological impacts of deep-sea and space exploration, seeking an understanding of how technology can help traverse physical boundaries. With several museum projects in motion, the artist himself is all over the map,but he keeps returning to that day in New Orleans, sometime after his opening reception, when he approached a local couple who were observing his sculpture on the barge. They’d been forced out of town, twice, by hurricanes. They thanked him for the work’s message of inclusion—and one of them broke down in tears. “In the art world, you don’t get to interact with everyday people asoften as you would imagine,” Strachan says.

Strachan, in his studio in New York, with As Far As I Can, 2015. Photograph by Andy Romer.