Daphne Arthur (b. 1984, Caracas, Venezuela) is an Afro-Venezuelan multidisciplinary artist whose work mobilizes unconventional materials and processes to transform the ephemeral into something concrete. Fluctuating between the experimental and methodical, she combines painting, sculpture, and drawing with smoke, paint, and clay to compose realist and surrealist scenes that investigate individual and collective history, language, symbolism, and memory. She is currently based in New York, where she also teaches at York College and Brooklyn College.
Daphne Arthur’s work combines a variety of media and materials to explore the mutability and fluidity of personal and collective mythology within the transnational diaspora over space and time. Her work interrogates the criminal justice system, migration laws, the effects of development, and transnational politics of marginalized groups throughout South America, North America, and the Caribbean. Arthur constructs realities that oscillate between seemingly opposing states: being and becoming; deterioration and transformation; macro and microcosmic; manufactured and natural; harmonic and discordant –– each pair embodying the politics of daily life. Arthur’s work is steeped with symbolism and imagery rooted in her multicultural background. Born to Trinidadian parents in Venezuela, multiplicity is omnipresent in her work –– each piece carves out a liminal space for her identities to emerge and collectively seek to explain or interrogate the gaps within her heritage. This requires the act of mythmaking, especially when parts of the archive have been destroyed, or, in some cases, actively forgotten. These limitations have birthed ingenuity within Arthur’s practice, encouraging her to create tools that transform common objects into the extraordinary. The elusive nature of memory translates into her notable use of smoke, stemming from her refusal to use store-bought materials. Arthur swiftly moves between two and three-dimensional forms employing elements from Afrofuturism, Arte Provera, Renaissance Art, Constructivism, and Japanese woodblocks. Each unique piece invites the audience to understand the formal qualities of the work and the historical narrative she is examining through the materials she employs.