FRONT opening weekend

The scope of the undertaking is ambitious on all levels. The partnerships, installations, artist lectures, films, and beyond have aligned despite the bureaucratic obstacles one can often experience in the world of non-profit entities and arts organizations. Founded by art collector Fred Bidwell (whose Transformer Station I am a big fan of), with the creative direction of Chicago-based artist Michelle Grabner, FRONT Triennial is not about representing artists in the rustbelt region, and it never claimed to be. It is about showcasing the city itself as an arts and culture destination that can attract a wider gaze and international talent. A Republican National Convention and an NBA Championship, sure. Now how about a city-wide arts event? The process of selecting artists was to choose those who have started to ascend, or have already made a splash in other Biennials, Triennials, and various degrees of academe in the art world. The list of international artists is staggering for a first-time arts event in any capacity.

There was a stink about artists in Northeast Ohio not getting fair representation, although six artists from the region were selected: Elizabeth Emery, Dale Goode, Julie Ezelle PattonMichael Oatman, Lauren Yeager and Johnny Coleman. However, much like SXSW or Art Basel Miami, FRONT has inspired rogue exhibitions by 78th Street Studios, Collective Arts Network, Lakeland Community College, Artist Archives of the Western Reserve, and Curated Storefront in Akron to name a handful. All affiliated and complimentary to FRONT. It’s an answer to the question of regional representation of which FRONT gladly included gallery and event listings in their own printed materials.

The marketing of FRONT and its choices of artists was to serve the purpose of bringing people in. In fact, almost all marketing efforts were targeted to those beyond a 250-mile radius of Cleveland. Does a gorgeous spread in Architectural Digest inspire a culture junkie in Seattle or a diehard art collector in Dallas to make a weekend out it? As though we are on a hamster wheel, always something to prove, Cleveland has a hurdle that most other cities with arts events don’t have: the stigma of being Cleveland. Let’s face it, Prospect New Orleans, Art Basel Miami, and the Venice Biennale take place in places people want to visit, anyway.

The theme for FRONT is “An American City” as artists created work that explores their sense of Cleveland, and cities like it. Several pieces in the Triennial speak to our current socio-political climate in America; immigration, racism, police brutality, the declining environment, and Wall Street greed are just some of the topics raised. Although these have always been problems, the spotlight has never been hotter in the wake of the Trump presidency.

 

The Thursday preview attracted visitors from the likes of Colorado, Utah, California, New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts. Still unfinished, the Julian Stanczak mural on Prospect Avenue was a wonderful way to see the process. As a part of Canvas City, 10 murals will stay up beyond this summer and be changed again in the coming years as a revolving outdoor mural gallery, much like Murals at the Market in Detroit.

The Saturday opening schedule was a grueling one; compounded by the fact opening gala was the evening before. If you didn’t have a ticket for up to $5,500 a plate at Public Auditorium, you could catch the wildly colorful and almost primal Asian Dope Boys performance on Instagram Live. In addition to tours and lectures, there is a large amount of programming of films, performances, and musical acts during City Stages. The planning around all locations was based on the assumptions one could walk to various sites, as well as hop on the RTA. Whether you love it or hate it, this is where ridesharing apps came into play for visitors in the summer heat or in a hurry to see as much as they could on opening weekend in a city where public transit is not exactly a strong suit. Shuttle tours that included the stops at the locations Oberlin and Akron aided, and inspired camaraderie. How this will develop over the summer with visitors remains to be seen. Frankly, many of these visitors for the opening weekend who were assigned by institutions and publications, were very annoyed they had to be in Cleveland despite whatever polite comments they offered. Some were open to exploring, while others just wanted to hit a checklist and retreat back to the area closest to their accommodations.

The popular Kusama exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art serves as an anchor for the Brutalist cinderblock city by Marlon de Azambujaand, the neon pieces developed using software by Agnieszka Kurantand, and works on paper of Kerry James Marshall (who also has an exhibition at The Cleveland Public Library) to name a few. Fred Bidwell referred to the giant hand created by artist Tony Tasset at MOCA as “selfie bait” but the real star of photos and social media platforms seems to be Yinka Shonibare MBE at The Cleveland Public Library. Even if you knew nothing of the context, as many visitors wandering from the nearby hotel conferences didn’t, the beauty of 6,000 colorful bound books on its own combined with the jaw dropping architecture made it hard for anyone to resist. If anyone took part in the interactive component, it didn’t seem to matter.

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You could say labeling anyone a “local” artist is akin to calling them a provincial artist. Perhaps Cleveland Artist, Rustbelt Artist, or even American Artist are labels we can begin to use more often despite not being a metropolis. It might be a long road, but FRONT could be yet another turning point in the perception game when it comes to Cleveland. Magazine features and online listicles can only do so much. Perception, of course, is one of the most minor problems the city faces.

www.FRONTart.org

Illustrious Decay at Cleveland West Art League

Oh look it’s my next exhibition! This will be opening at the tail end of FRONT

Cleveland West League is proud to present a new body of work from visual artists Jenniffer Omaitz and Arabella Proffer in the exhibition, “Illustrious Decay”.  Cleveland West Art League Gallery (CWAL) is located in 78th Street Studios at 1305 West 80th Street, Suite 110, Cleveland, Ohio 44102.  The opening reception will be from 5:00 to 9:00 pm on Friday, September 21st, 2018 and the closing reception will be Friday, October 19th, 2018 from 5:00 to 9:00 pm.

“Illustrious Decay”, represents an investigation of form, biology, and environmental decay.  Arabella Proffer’s painting brings together her interests in nature, disease, and the evolution of cells. The paintings explore the roles that organisms, medicine, DNA, and hybrids play in response to our current age of genetic revolution. Flourishes of familiar landscapes as their environment, add to their story.The sculpture of Jenniffer Omaitz reacts to the macro environments in Proffers’ paintings by creating interior spaces and exposing exterior structures that house decaying parts, miniscapes, and combining meta realities as if they were a invented surreal landscape.

The mission of the Cleveland West Art League is to foster an inclusive artist community in Greater Cleveland by providing exhibition and collaborative opportunities, resources and education.

Goodbye Horses: A Song and a Mystery

A new article has been written about Q and the now storied song “Goodbye Horses”. I can tell you for a fact it wasn’t until after my friend Bill passed away almost a decade ago, that all of the real interest sprouted. He did enjoy some recognition in the early 2000s thanks to various outlets like Toxic Airborne Event, Family Guy, and Grand Theft Auto. Let me tell you, Bill would have LOVED all the lore and mystery! But it’s true, no one has been able to find Q for years, and he presumed she passed away ages ago.

I should clarify (this is the problem when journalists email with no follow-up questions or don’t suggest a phone conversation, I get emails almost monthly about Goodbye Horses from various magazines) that his oldest sister was estranged up until his second coma when the hospital told our friend Veronica that she needed to find his family after all those years because it was not looking good. He beat hospice too, by the way, and even got an invoice for not dying! He would later pass away just as things were looking up. Veronica and I are very amused the article says she disputes me. I should also clarify that the use of the song he would have been angry about are the random bootlegs I’ve seen get released on vinyl.

When I say Bill, and not “Q” people get very confused. Let me put it this way; Q was used as an instrument (I believe paid as a one-time deal) but the song was written and composed by Bill, he even came up with the name Q Lazzarus. The demos of himself doing the vocals are still around, as is the original Casio he used. He did remixes up until the mid 2000s.

I know everyone wants more information about Diane (aka Q) but as far as we know, the consensus was that she moved to the UK and thus disappeared.

Of course, I found Bill to be fascinating and an underachiever in so many ways that I could relate to. But, he new that song was good, and would make sure you knew it upon meeting him! That’s how we became friends when I met him in a bar in Cleveland; I practically hugged him “that song was you?! I tried forever to find it but it wasn’t on any soundtracks!” and off we went!

Collabortation could always be tricky with him, but we managed to do a great art exhibition together, and he worked with Veronica Red a lot. I always wonder what he would have gone on to do. It’s so hard for me to hear that song — which gets played a lot in various places from a night club to a grocery store. I think about him just about every day.

An Art Exhibit Celebrating 7 Years Cancer-Free!

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I’m pleased to say my show “Forma and Flora” at The Gathering Place his now on view at their Beachwood, Ohio facility through the winter.

There will be a public reception on Thursday, January 11th from 5-7pm and is on view until the end of March. 

The Arnold & Sydell Miller Family Campus
23300 Commerce Park
Beachwood, Ohio 44122

You can also view a little spotlight here. I’ll be showing this new painting above, “Preacher” 16×16″ oil on panel.

I had opened this show in the fall at The Gathering Place newly built Westlake location, and the feedback has been great. I always get nervous especially when it is in a public space meant for healing — both the physical and mental. If you or someone you know resides in NE Ohio I highly recommend the programming for both adults and children.

As of this past September I am now 7 years out from my initial cancer removal surgery. I am still under the thumb of the US healthcare system due to subsequent procedures and surgeries that were related to my cancer, but my liposarcoma has not returned in any of the places it should have. It’s also almost 8 years since I began the series that changed my whole art game.

I still look over my shoulder, but not quite as often. I even learned how to go down a flight of stairs for the first time in 7 years! I’ve done a lot of genetic counseling and DNA testing, appeared in a few medical journal due to my anomalies, but no explanation or markers have been found. Maybe one day another test subject will be found, or it will be called “Proffer syndrome” after my dad and myself. I don’t consider “cancer-free” to mean that it isn’t still inside me (I was told it is) but that I am far out enough now to not go into a complete PTSD meltdown the second I find something a little off or don’t feel well. That maybe it will always be in me but won’t wake up again from the dormant slumber and create new tumors; new creatures finding their way through me again. Maybe someday a cure will be found.

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Studio Moving Sale! From Lakewood to Cleveland

biomorphic art by Arabella Proffer

My painting “Showboat” will be part of the group exhibition “It’s Elemental” at Valley Art Center in Chagrin Falls opening this Friday from 6-8pm

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Big news is that I am moving my studio! A friend bought a building in Cleveland full of mannequins, vinyl swatches, boxes full of carpet, soooo much paper, a room full of screws (like floor to ceiling), flat files full of maps, and 1980s offices that look like The Walking Dead happened and time stood still because everyone fled. Anyway, it will be a while for the space to look presentable, but, studio mate Knitgrrl and I are having a moving sale on Sunday, January 29th from 11am-5pm if you are local to Cleveland. You can RSVP here.

Biomorphic Garden Party solo exhibition at 78th Street Studios

Hey! My show is almost here! I’ve been working my tail off on it despite everything medical that has happened this summer. I’ve also ordered some fancy truffles for the opening reception with designs that look like the paintings — so it’s serious now. This is my first show of my new work and if you live in NE Ohio I hope to see you there….

Join us for the opening reception at the HEDGE gallery satellite space Suite 215 during Third Fridays at 78th Street Studios.

Friday, November 18th from 5 to 9pm 

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This series brings together painter Arabella 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 imagination and instinct. Shaping aesthetic outcomes of these paintings doesn’t come from research or re-creating what already exists; she creates her own nature within these little worlds. If cells and viruses can look beautiful when magnified, what about organisms on other planets? Is there something bigger we are a part of? What will these cells look like 10 days later – what about 10 million years later? Proffer visualizes every stage of evolution from our planet and ones yet to be explored.

This exhibition is made possible by the support of the Ohio Arts Council.

www.arabellaproffer.com  www.hedgeartgallery.com

Proffer’s surreal organic environments start from a place of abstraction and evolve into surroundings filled with strange hybrids of flowers and organisms. In 2010 the artist was diagnosed with a rare cancer which was crawling through her body at an alarming rate. Ironically when her oncologist showed the scans of the tumor and aggressive virus, they looked almost identical to Proffer’s most recent paintings, tentacles and all! This fascination with the macro universe and micro universe has continued through Arabella Proffer’s work — and more recently in a circumstance of life imitating art — she has battled re-occurring illness, continuing to paint what seem like familiar creatures and symbols during her recovery.

After more than a decade of being known as a figurative painter, this is the first time her new direction has come together as a solo exhibition.

The show will be up until December 23rd.

Summer Mini Art Shows

I’ll be the featured artist for the Saturday, May 21st installment of the Platform Brewing Concert Series at Lake Affect Studios! This includes bands The Teddy Boys, Erienauts, and John’s Little Sister. Amazing beers on tap, food trucks, and more. 21+ and doors are at 7:30pm. $10 entry. This event is a monthly concert series featuring local bands, beer, food, and artists.

Catch my pop-up exhibit called “Brush with Beauty” inside Legacy Village during Art in the VillageJune 4th & 5th from 10am to 6pm. We are taking over a storefront as part of Retail Lab and it will include a pop-up exhibition, and fabulous vintage finds from Deering Vintage.

After that is “Draw Together” co-presented by the Cleveland Museum of Art and SPACES on Sunday, June 26th at CMA. I’ll be drawing for a few hours in the galleries with visitors. The museum turns 100 and this is part of their Centennial Festival Weekend. If you are too hung over from Solstice Party they do sell wine in the cafe! I’ve been a Teaching Artist at CMA this past year working with medical students and professionals, and it’s been swell!

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YSL Eye Event: Artist Brushes x Make-Up Brushes

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On Saturday, May 9th from Noon to 5pm I will be doing portraits of a sort, at Nordstrom in Beachwood as part of the rock the look couture eye event promotion from YSL Beauty. We’re talking liners, shadows, mascaras, and all that good stuff!

With qualifying purchase you receive a “Lover’s Eye” oil painting of your make-up, done by celebrity make-up artist Elle Gemma. You’ll take home your eye portrait that day, and a gift from YSL with your purchase during this event.

Spaces are limited, so please RSVP to ElleGemma@live.com for your half-hour appointment.

I Curated Something That’s Actually Related to Art!

Everyone’s a curator these days. Right? Curator of content, of ideas, of a Pinterest board, or a music collection on your iPod.

Well for the first time since 2001 (Blood Moon group show in Hollywood at the now defunct HQ Gallery) I actually curated something in the proper sense of the word. I was asked by Cleveland West Art League to choose this year’s Six in Studio artists. All of the artists I selected I find do something relating to the word or notion of “organic”, or even biomorphic as it were. I didn’t think there would be a cohesive theme in who I picked — but there it is. Almost all women, too! That wasn’t intentional when I looked at the submissions of images but I’m glad it worked out that way.

This is a strange experience for me because I chose mostly installation art. But, being the point of the show is to create work in the gallery space with onlookers at times, and their fellow artists, I thought it could become interesting when the end result is revealed.

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So come on out if you can on Friday, March 20th for the beginning reception for these artists at 78th Street Studios. The reveal reception is Friday, April 17th.

Speaking of curating an iPod, I will be “DJing” with mine, as well as probably doing my own art live like a wild animal in captivity for you to behold.

Genghis Con at the Screw Factory

Just a quick note to say I will have my studio open on the 2nd floor of the Screw Factory during the 6th annual Genghis Con. I’ll be there from 2-4:30pm (possibly longer). Not selling anything comic related, but I have  4 copies left of the 1st edition of my book, and lots of paintings! It is a good way to come see my art in person if you haven’t yet. I have been working from home since February, so it has been nice to be back in there lately just for meetings and parties.

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The event goes until 7pm and will showcase some rad guys like John G. and Derf.