Clash Culture

Artist imagines upper-crust dandies as mohawk-sporting punks.

Cleveland theater
Local painter Arabella Proffer gives a shout-out to old-school punks in her new exhibit, Private Empire: The National Portrait Gallery of Kessa, which opens tonight at Asterisk Gallery. “Everyone’s got piercings and mohawks now,” she says. “I wondered how aristocrats would feel about it.” More than two dozen portraits depict nobility sporting medieval finery and punk-era coifs. Each pays tribute to the SoCal scene, where Proffer slummed during the ’90s. “I had a big white mohawk,” she says. “I stopped shaving and wearing makeup. I got a tattoo at 15. By 20, I realized how full of shit it was.”

Proffer moved to Cleveland four years ago and discovered a “street-dark” society, where teens expressed themselves with their hair and clothing. “It’s funny that these movements were meant to be self-destructive and nonconformist,” she says. “They’ll never die. They just keep mutating into something new and weird for suburban kids.”
Oct. 12-Nov. 2, 2007

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