Sunday, September 21, 2014

The F-word…and my birthday wish for Arabella

The F-word…

That’s what it says in an expert calligraphic hand on the small but rare Seb Lester print that hangs over the bed that artist Arabella Proffer shares with her husband.

Yes, THE f-word. Not one of the friendly birthday card ones like “Forty” or “Fifty”…Arabella is only in her 30s.

Now, since this is a rated PG blog, you know I wouldn’t be using that word unless I had to…and in this story, I feel I have to use it a bit… so please indulge me.

Arabella Couture…a detail of her custom silver handle cane and her amazing shoes

Think of that plaque when I tell you that Arabella has cancer. And not one of the ones you’ve heard of. She has a rare congenital kind where cancer grows here and there in your body, devastating the parts in its path, requiring surgeries and removals of affected body parts. So far it has been a leg bone, and the complete female reproductive system…so far.


See that’s why the f-word is kind of a theme with this blog story.

I hope you don’t think I’m making light of the cancer though. In my so far only vicarious experience with cancer, I have learned a few things. If you have cancer, you own it. And you don’t owe anyone the reserved and gracious cancer patient they may be expecting to see. You get to rock it, fight it, hate it, laugh at it, cry about it, confidently make it part of your identity, wear it with style and kick its ass. And if you want to, you get to say “fuck”…as many times as you G-d- please!

And that is exactly what Arabella does.

Arabella Couture by Judy Takács

Arabella first came on my radar because of her art. She paints on the fantastic fringes of the portrait-painting world. Yes, she paints people, but she doesn’t seek out real ones like I do. She makes up fictitious legendary characters. She paints them small, polished and iconic with glorious, sparkling, intricate, macabre and twisted detail…and they have stories. She creates identities for her fictitious royalty and writes about them in seductive biographical detail.

Her portraits fly in the face of the conventional Mid-western reason for not purchasing and displaying figurative work; “Why would I want to have a painting of someone I don’t know hanging on my wall?” is the refrain landlocked artists hear so often. Through her fictitious biographical book, The National Portrait Gallery of Kessa, she lets us get to know her people… in juicy, gruesome personal detail. And collectors across the globe buy them and hang them on their walls.

Arabella draws inspiration from the many medical procedures she has been subject to as part of the quest for her personal cure for her specific cancer. She also studies frightening medical procedures from medieval times and the dark ages…only to find, sardonically, that the cure for her particular ailment had changed little. Her learning epicenter for these genteel and well-meaning atrocities from days gone by is the Dittrick Medical Museum at Case Western Reserve University. She regularly frequents and extensively promotes this small quiet Cleveland museum on her blog and through social media.

I write this as I prepare to see her at the opening of her April 2014 solo show, “Ephemeral Antidotes,” in the same space where Chicks had its debut last summer, at BAYarts in Bay Village, Ohio. She feverishly (literally) finishes paintings for this show, even as she is recovering from a recent round of 21st century surgery whose complications and incompetencies almost killed her. I do, however, know she will shine tonight. Her work will be rivetingly intelligent and delightful, and she will entertain and educate.

I also hope there will be absolutely no reason to her use the f-word tonight…though somehow, I also know better.


You know how I love an epilogue.

“Ephemeral Antidotes” was a hit, Arabella did indeed shine, surrounded by her exquisitely jewel-like paintings.

In addition to her custom designed, Boris Palatnik silver handled cane, Dolce & Gabbana jacket and Prada shoes, I have never seen anyone rock a catheter bag and tube with such panache.

You think I’m kidding. I’m not. The complications of her very recent surgery left her with a torn bladder and a catheter. The tube snaked out from under her Philip Lim skirt and led into the bag of pee tastefully hidden in her vintage patent leather Chanel bag,…which she held with all the style and confidence of Coco herself.

The show was an amazing success, sales right and left and I didn’t hear the f-word uttered all night long.

Arabella Couture…a detail of crystal ball, her tattoo and her iconic skull ring.

Post-Epilogue and my birthday wish for Arabella

As I dawdled away the months waiting for the right time to post this blog article, (wanting to put some distance between the nun stories and the f-word) Arabella’s medical history continued. She is now headed to yet another surgery for her leg. Very open about her troubles and her frustrations, she wrote all about it in her blog.

Since I’m posting this on MY birthday, I’m going to dedicate my candle blowing out wish to Arabella for a speedy and uneventful recovery from this next surgery. And, yes, I know the thing about jinxing it by telling your birthday wish, but I’ve been birthday wishing for my friends and family for years now, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. And spilling the beans to the few people that actually read to the end of my blog could hardly be considered jinxing it.

But just to be sure, I'll knock on wood too.

Post-POST Epilogue

It is now 2020 and the world is in a weirder state than it ever has before, but you know all about that.

It is also the worst possible time to be diagnosed with anything.

Arabella has, only just recently had her cancer come back. Its back and its very bad, like terminal bad, like hospice bad. I'm heartsick and sad that its going this way. Today, she heads into some aggressive treatments, and I hope and pray with whatever power I may have that the treatment beats back the cancer…yet again.

Please hope and pray with me for Arabella, using whatever power you may have.

Yet another Epilogue!

It is now September 2023. Arabella has spent the past three years doing more than many do in their entire lifetime. 

Between the treatments killing her and the cancer killing her, Arabella has created work when she is able, sold many of the few paintings she has left (there are literally only four originals left for sale on her website!),  created an amazing collection of digital prints and educated herself on the world of NFTs. She is so educated in fact that she wrote a book on it! WTF are NFTs? has established Arabella Proffer as Cleveland Art Community’s authority on the creation and sale of NFTs…Non-fungable tokens. She has also lectured on NFTs…no small feat when you feel like crap between the treatments killing you and the cancer killing you. She has also managed to travel a bit with her devoted and loving husband Ben. 

It is now September 2023 though, and she has made the sad, but totally understandable and sensible decision to quit letting the chemo torture her and begin Hospice care. Hospice care is your Plan B when you decide the balance between quality of life and quantity of life should swing to the shorter quality direction. It means you want to stop feeling like crap all the time, even if it will mean less time. 

So now we'll see. Arabella writes about this in her own words. 

You can support her buy buying her art and prints.

You can support her by contributing to her go fund me.

And, I’m going to make a late birthday wish that Arabella stop suffering and just feel excellent for whatever short time she has left. 

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