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Arabella Proffer's "Garden Party" evokes, beautifies inner space

Astronomer - artist Arabella Proffer

Deluge - artist Arabella Proffer

Consider the quiet moment when you nestle your ear against the warm hollow of your lover's belly and listen to the universe inside of her. Mysterious gurgles, bubbles and pops erupt as all those internal systems filter, pump and process.

Behold a manifestation of the human experience that is simultaneously intimate and foreign - so much so that if the sounds were isolated and removed from the fleshy contact, one might assign the orchestration to outer space.
 
Noted and uniquely qualified, local artist Arabella Proffer has visually realized that symphony, particularly amid the works in her forthcoming show Biomorphic Garden Party, which will open next Friday, Nov. 18, at the HEDGE Gallery in the 78th Street Studios with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. The show will run through Dec. 17.
 
"Biomorphic" is a departure for Proffer, who is well known for her devastating femme fatale portraits, but it is also profoundly personal.
 
Proffer, who has battled an aggressive form of lipo sarcoma since 2010 that required removal of part of her thigh, received an Ohio Arts Council Grant through the Artists with Disabilities Access Program. The resulting work includes efforts in “Biomorphic,” a series that combines Proffer's interests in the evolution of cells, mutation, botany and microbiology; but don't expect loose translations of medical and scientific images. Those varied inspirations have moved her to create surreal hybrids of flowers, cells, and symbols evocative of otherworldly organisms
 
"Biomorphic" is born from Proffer's body and soul - a characterization that might be trite in any other circumstance, but not with these works, which conjure her cancer. Proffer once described the disease's physical invasion as "a big nasty tumor with wandering tentacles in my thigh."
 
While the portrayal is wholly earned, her artistic interpretations of that terrible and formidable muse are beautiful and complex while managing to be abstract and highly detailed. There is also an unmistakable sexuality characterizing the series that is at once sensual and medical.

"Biomorphic" earns all the adjectives: jarring, compelling, disturbing; and for those who appreciate contrast at its most subtle and sincere, Proffer's work will not disappoint.
 
For questions, contact gallery director, Hilary Gent at hilary@hedgeartgallery.com or 216.650.4201. Viewing hours are Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., evenings and weekends by appointment.
 

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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