The Fantastical Dreams of Anna TararovaMarch 13, 2015
Armed with a colorful palette of cotton pulp, Art-in-Ed workspace resident Anna Tararova leans over a large sheet of kenaf and abaca fibers to blend ombre patterns on its still-wet surface. She occasionally glances up at a black and white screen printed photograph that hangs above the sheet for reference. The Russian multimedia artist begins by telling a story:
“Do you know the creation myth of the Lenape that lived here?” she asks. “Most Native American myths start with a turtle that comes out of the water, the earth on top of its back. Their turtle sprouted a tree: man sprouted from the root of the tree, and then the tree bent over a branch and sprouted a woman.”
Before arriving at WSW, Anna familiarized herself with local folklore and abandoned, historical landmarks around the area that she wanted to visit and photograph. She rehearses this tale and several others to describe how she began responding to the landscape to create works of photography, screen printing, and papermaking.
“I have this crazy view of things. I believe in everything,” Anna says. “I treat every fantasy as something that exists. Whenever I talk about it, I talk about it like it’s right there.”
Across drawing, painting, papermaking, video, and installation, her work composes fantastical narratives that reveal otherworldly places beneath the surface of the visible world. Anna’s fairy tales explore female identity and humans’ innate connection with nature, drawing from explorations of place that come from literature, poetry, and essays, and referencing Future Feminism, a movement begun by five artists who call for a radical reclaiming of mythical female archetypes.For her 2013 MFA thesis show Wild Fancy, Anna constructed an elaborate fort that viewers entered to watch the coming-of-age narrative of a princess. Filled with wild ponies, tree forts, and roaming cats, the installation interprets one of Anna’s surreal dreams. Another one of her films Bad Weather, produced with Jacob Koestler, follows the journey of a young man and mysterious mermaid who threatens to destroy the world. Throughout her work, the mermaid emerges as a central character. A powerful, feminine force endangered and forgotten by modern society, the mermaid represents the union of human and natural worlds in Anna’s narratives.
“I read every myth or story associated with a landscape,” Anna says. “I look at a map first and find specific landmarks, like the Hudson River and Catskills, and research what was there, looking at everything that comes up. Then I try to make my own narrative based on those facts.”During her six-week residency, it’s unsurprising that Anna has become completely captivated by the Hudson River. She’s traveled throughout the area to photograph isolated, visually-engaging sites that have a rich history, like the abandoned Hudson River State Hospital, Overlook Mountain House, and Bannerman’s Island Castle. In the papermaking studio, Anna pulls a base sheet with local plant fibers and then pulp paints a unique surface for each photograph she plans to print. After reproducing her photographs in low-fi, halftone patterns, she silkscreens them onto the dreamy, colored sheets.
The combination of the two media creates fairytale-like landscapes: A castle sits on a distant island, overlooking an icy waterscape; a large, vulvar crack fractures the center of the Hudson River, whose movements deceptively appear to have been arrested by winter; a decaying door waits to be opened. In these subtle, pulp painted narratives, Anna invokes a magical sense of possibility, muted and muddied through the haze of a dream., uprooting stories embedded in the landscape and open portals to other worlds.
“I wanted to take photographs and make them look like dreams,” Anna says.
Anna Tararova is a Russian-born artist based in Cleveland, Ohio. She received her MFA in Printmaking from Ohio University, and, by her own account, has watched every mermaid film. Two of her most treasured art-making texts are Mapping the Invisible Landscape and Girls Against God. Find more of Anna’s work at, www.annatararova.com.