The National Portrait Gallery of Kessa: The Art of Arabella Proffer
The National Portrait Gallery Of Kessa:
THE ART OF ARABELLA PROFFER
to be released by Cooperative Press, December 2011
On-line book pre-orders start Tuesday, October 25
Taking inspiration from artists of the Renaissance to Rococo periods, contemporary artist Arabella Proffer has re-imagined the mannerist portrait with a pop surrealist twist. After researching fashion history, heraldry, and peerage protocol, she went on to create her own world parallel to that of old world Europe. Concocting a family legacy -- ancestors that could belong to anyone - it has become an impulse and a passion the artist continues to explore, adding characters and stories to her ever-growing private empire of punks, goths, and nobility behaving badly.
As a young punk Arabella Proffer observed firsthand how important fashion was to groups that supposedly rejected being labeled. Their uniformed rebellion became commonplace; tattoos, piercings, bizarre hair colors... all have gone on to become high fashion. As a lover of Elizabethan portraiture, she wondered what it would have been like if the aristocracy of centuries past had taken to these fashions, looking rebellious, shocking, regal and grand all at once as a reminder of their legacy.
"To get a tattoo or piercing is expensive even in the modern age," says Proffer. "These would have been considered status symbols for only the very rich in centuries past, and thus, they'd want to flaunt them in their commissioned portraits. A king or queen would have had the biggest Mohawk and sleeve tattoos, that's how I imagine it. These are very tribal adornments, but if marketed as a luxury, you can bet the royal courts of Europe would have taken it to an extreme. I wanted to combine the ancestor worship perpetuated by noble families with my love of old portraiture and punk imagery."
Included are over 40 portraits created between 2000 and 2011, their stories, family trees, map and more, as well as a foreword by Josh Geiser of Creep Machine and Paper Devil.
About Cooperative Press
Cooperative Press is an independent publishing company based on the audacious concept that artists and creators deserve to earn more for their work. Owner and publisher Shannon Okey is an internationally-known fiber artist with over a dozen books to her credit; she is also the former editor of a UK-based fiber arts magazine. Cooperative Press' expansion into fine arts publishing builds on another facet of Okey's overall curatorial goals: to present the most interesting and innovative art books by talented creators in a modern and innovative way.
Skin of the Fox Cures the Pox 16x20" oil on linen "Ephemeral Antidotes" is a collection of paintings exploring the medical superstitions and practices of centuries past. Continuing in the tradition of imaginary portraits with fictional narratives, now documented in her new book, The National Portrait Gallery of Kessa,Arabella Proffer's new series consists of more surreal figurative pieces, bold with color, and an underlying darkness.
In 2010 Proffer was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer; in the process of being treated she wondered what it would have been like to endure the cures and surgeries of her favorite periods in art history.
"After having a section of my leg removed, I began researching medicine from the Middle Ages through the 18th century; this series was a good way for me to work out my anger and be even more thankful that what I'm going through is nothing compared to old remedies and techniques. My art and interests were in the way society lived in the past, but with emphasis on the defiant, glamorous, and eccentric -- not daily strife. You could have been rich, important, or beautiful, but if sick, you would still receive brutal or worthless treatment."
Violets For Heart Veins 16x20" oil on linen
Done in oil on linen, each painting is accompanied by a biography, written by Proffer, highlighting both the fascinating and horrifying aspects of old medicine. She hopes viewers will find them both educational, and beautiful.
Arabella Proffer is a painter whose loose narrative themes revolve around a fascination with punk rock, Elizabethan fashion, gothic divas, religious icons, and the decline of European aristocracy. Her figurative and portrait work has been described as everything from neorealism to pop surrealism, touching on identity, history, rebellion, and refinement.
Earning her BFA from California Institute of the Arts, she has participated in group and solo exhibitions throughout North America and Europe. She is also an arts educator and co-founder of indie record label Elephant Stone Records. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she has taken up residence in Laguna Beach, Boston, Los Angeles, and currently works from her studio in Cleveland, Ohio.