Bahamian, b. 1979

New York–based artist Tavares Strachan interrogates the narratives, histories, and myths surrounding the Arctic as well as its vulnerability to today’s changing climate. In 2013 Strachan traveled to the North Pole, re-creating U.S. Naval Commander Robert Peary’s “discovery” of it in 1909. That early expedition was greatly indebted to the skills and talents of African American explorer Mathew Henson and four Inuit guides, although they were given no significant credit for their pivotal roles.

When completing his own trek in the Arctic, the artist carried a flag (shown in this gallery) made by his mother, referencing the one planted by Peary upon his arrival at the North Pole. In his panoramic photograph Standing Alone, Strachan points out the irony of putting any such permanent marker at what is now widely considered a conceptual rather than fixed point, since the ice shelf covering the North Pole is constantly shifting and often moves several miles within minutes. Addressing the slippage between fact and fiction and the tendency of historical narratives to exclude certain figures, the artist draws parallels among the ambiguity surrounding Henson’s role in the historic expedition, the questionable authenticity of his own performance of this journey, and misinformation surrounding the discussion on climate change as a whole—notions captured simply in a neon sign declaring Sometimes Lies Are Prettier.

Who Deserves Aquamarine, Black, and Gold (FLAG), 2005–06
Hand-sewn cotton
38 x 58 in. (96.5 x 147.3 cm)
Edition: 4, plus 1 artist’s proof
Liz & Jonathan Goldman

Sometimes Lies Are Prettier, 2017
Blue neon and three transformers
20 in. x 7 ft. 11 in. x 3/8 in. (50.8 cm x 241.3 cm x 8 mm)
Edition: 9, plus 2 artist’s proofs
Courtesy Tavares Strachan

Standing Alone, 2013
Light boxes and Duratran prints
Lightbox 1: 12 in. x 7 ft. 11 ½ in. x 2 in. (30.5 x 242.6 x 5.1 cm); lightbox 2: 12 x 45 ½ x 2 in. (30.5 x 115.6 x 5.1 cm)
Courtesy Tavares Strachan