Arabella 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 been 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.
Her series "Biomorphic Garden Party" brings together her interests in botany, microbiology, 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. At times, Proffer’s paintings mirror personal metaphysical occurrences, and, at times, contain a slight node to art history, such as hints of a baroque landscape or decadent still lives through distorted lenses. Shaping aesthetic outcomes of these paintings doesn’t come from research or re-creating what already exists; Proffer creates her own nature within these little worlds. Insects, flowers, human organs all come from the same process at the core, but within her paintings she is instinctually visualizing their fictional evolution at any given stage. Proffer creates her own fragile beings within these little worlds: alien forms mesh with what might be seen under a microscope or through a telescope. They are an artificial nature or a nature that is simply unknown to us, scientized and made more delectable. They are more virtual reality than actuality.
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 the 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.
View images from Proffer's 2019 BoxHeart Exhibition, Soft Sugars.