Arabella Proffer: Soft Sugars

Saturday, Jul 20, 5pm
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BoxHeart Gallery
4523 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh

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About event

From July 16th through August 23rd, BoxHeart is proud to present Arabella Proffer: Soft Sugars on exhibit in our 2nd-floor gallery. Organized by Nicole Capozzi and Joshua Hogan, owners of BoxHeart, Soft Sugars brings together Proffer's interests in botany, microbiology, monsters, space, disease, and the evolution of cells. Within those interests, she explores the particular roles that organisms, medicine, DNA, and hybrids play, all while creating from her own imagination and instinct. 

Proffer's artwork changed drastically one day in 2010 when she found herself creating surreal organic environments. Although she started from a place of abstraction, they became filled with strange hybrids of flowers, cells, and symbols that appeared like organisms from another planet. It was only later that Proffer found out she had cancer crawling through her body at an alarming rate. When Proffer's doctor showed her the scans of the tumor, and close-ups of the cells, it looked almost identical to what she had started painting – tentacles and all. A new fascination with the macro universe and micro universe was born. This was a major departure for Proffer after 12 years of exhibiting as a Pop Surrealist portrait artist, with a mild obsession with European aristocracy, medical history, and the Old Masters.

Shaping aesthetic outcomes of these paintings don’t come from research or re-creating what already exists; Proffer creates her own nature within these little worlds. If cells and viruses can look beautiful when magnified, she wonders what organisms on other planets look like? Is there something bigger we are a part of? What will these cells look like 10 days later – what about 10 million years later? Concerned with answering these questions for herself, Proffer doesn’t like to analyze or diagnose too much because creating something the viewer interprets with their own ideas is part of the experience. Invertebrates, flowers, human organs all come from the same natural process at the core, and visualizing their fictional evolution at any given stage is the most enjoyable part of creating.

Proffer is an artist, author, and co-founder of the indie label Elephant Stone Records. Her loose narrative themes revolve around a fascination with punk rock, aristocrats, fashion, the history of medicine, and biomorphic organisms. She delves into her practice of oil painting tying together its relationships to anatomy, biology, and emerging sciences. She attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA before receiving her BFA from California Institute of the Arts where she studied under artists such as John Mandel, Derek Boshier, Jim Shaw, and Susan Pitt. Proffer’s artwork is in over 60 private collections, and she participates in solo and group exhibitions throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia.

Her book The National Portrait Gallery of Kessa: The Art of Arabella Proffer was published in 2011 by Cooperative Press. She was awarded an Ohio Arts Council grant in 2016, and an Akron Soul Train Fellowship in 2018. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Plain Dealer, GOOD Magazine, Hi-Fructose, Juxtapoz, The Harvard Gazette, Scene Magazine, Snob, Hektoen International Medical Journal, Creative Minds in Medicine, and more. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and bred in Southern California, she and her husband live on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio.

Reception with the Artist
Arabella Proffer: Soft Sugars will be on exhibit from July 16th through August 23rd in BoxHeart’s 2nd-floor gallery. The exhibition coincides with our main gallery exhibit Allsorts: presented by guest curator Natalie Shahinian. The reception with the artists will be held Saturday, July 20th from 5 - 8 pm.