MacArthur Fellows Program

Tavares Strachan

Interdisciplinary Conceptual Artist | Class of 2022

Expanding the possibilities for what art can be and illuminating overlooked contributions of marginalized figures throughout history.

Interdisciplinary Conceptual Artist
New York, New York and Nassau, The Bahamas
42 at time of award
Published September 26, 2022

About Tavares’s Work

Tavares Strachan is an artist merging scientific, historical, and aesthetic investigations in projects that exemplify the power of human ingenuity. His extensively researched works weave through various media and disciplines.

Exploration is both literally and thematically an integral component of Strachan’s practice. He traveled to the Arctic for his early break-out piece, The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want (2005–2006). There, he extracted a 4.5-ton block of ice and shipped it to the Bahamas via FedEx. The block was displayed on the grounds of Strachan’s former elementary school in a solar-powered refrigerated case made in consultation with scientists from MIT. The work speaks to ideas of duality and to the connection between identity and displacement in relation to vast distances, climates, and geographic environments. In a subsequent body of work, Strachan explores the phenomenon of orthostatic tolerance, or the body’s ability to withstand gravitational stress. His research included deep-sea exploration and cosmonaut training at the Yuri Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. One of the resulting pieces is Invisible Diver (2010): a scale model of the human circulatory system made of hand-blown glass. The model is submerged in a glass case filled with mineral oil that has the same refractive index as the glass, so the intricate anatomy is visible only from certain viewing angles and disappears when viewed from others. This research led Strachan to establish B.A.S.E.C., the Bahamas Aerospace and Sea Exploration Center, an initiative that brings visiting scientists to Nassau and provides educational opportunities for young residents.

Themes of visibility and invisibility run through Strachan’s practice, as manifested in his endeavor to lift up the contributions of marginalized figures in history who have been left out of official records. His Encyclopedia of Invisibility (2018) documents thousands of these individuals’ work and accomplishments across wide-ranging fields. Strachan uses the Encyclopedia as a point of departure for pieces in other media. For a 2018 exhibition, he installed neon signs of individuals’ names from his Encyclopedia on the exterior frieze of the Carnegie Museum of Art. Situated alongside the names of great historical figures already carved into the stone, the new neon names—such as Matthew Henson, the first Black polar explorer, or the rapper Tupac Shakur—are thus raised to the level of Benjamin Franklin and Beethoven. Through a rare combination of historical and scientific inquiry made visible through an artistic practice that reaches across media, Strachan is creating work that inspires curiosity and pushes the limits of what is possible in art.


Tavares Strachan received a BFA (2003) from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA (2006) from Yale University. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at various national and international venues, including the Frye Art Museum, Seattle; Baltimore Museum of Art; Prospect.3, New Orleans; the Venice Biennale; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.

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Please credit: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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