Opening March 8th through April 20, 2024
PROXYCO Gallery, 121 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002


PROXYCO Gallery is proud to present “Into the Light” an exhibition featuring the work of Isabel de Obaldía, a Panamanian artist renown for a multidisciplinary practice that includes drawing, painting, and glass sculpture. Inspired by the challenging political and ecological times we find ourselves in, “Into the Light” is a metaphorical rumination on endurance and survival, illuminating both the wondrous mysteries of the natural world as well as it being the site for tragic modern dramas.

Greeting visitors at eye level as they enter the gallery are three large scale glass figures. Imposing sentinels, they exude an archaic dignity, amplified by their rough and weathered surfaces. Titled Mensajero (Messenger), Espíritu marino (Spirit of the Sea), and Ardiente (Burning), they contain emblematic bat, skull and flame images embossed on their chests like battle talismans. These monumental sculptures are one of de Obaldía’s most recognizable signature styles, demonstrating her virtuoso skills as glass caster and etcher. Silent but with great presence, intimidating yet also fragile, these works set the tone for the rest of the show which is a rich mix of empathy, respect, and close observation.

In another room a series of smaller glass figures are arranged on the wall as if climbing or hanging on, referencing the artist’s visits to the treacherous jungles of Darién, located on the border from Panama into Colombia where men, women and children face perilous conditions to cross the border and continue their journey pursuing their dream of reaching the United States. Drawing plein air in order to capture the immediacy of the interaction between nature and humanity, her large-scale drawings stress the theme of the exhibition. Dwarfed figures set in majestic but overwhelming jungle landscapes struggle towards breaks in the foliage, the symbolic light of safe passage.

In a downstairs chamber of the gallery is Refugio, an installation based on the artist’s experience on the Barro Colorado Island in Panama, home of the Smithsonian Bat Lab, operated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Some Latin American pre-Columbian cultures believed bats were endowed with supernatural abilities, traveling between our world and the next. Creatures that have long fascinated de Obaldía since her first visit to this pristine scientific environment at the age of seventeen, she was able to observe them further after receiving a residency to Barro Colorado in 2023. Impressed by their great variety of species and adaptability, she also was alarmed by their growing vulnerability and here celebrates them in all their spooky charm. Under an eerie red glow simulating the infra-red lights used to study bats in laboratory conditions, her glass bats hang from the ceiling in intimate profusion. The subterranean and mysterious ambiance is further enhanced by rare sounds, some of which are recordings of bats, generously gifted to her by the Smithsonian Bat Lab. Isabel de Obaldía has been chosen as one of the artists to represent Panama at the 60th anniversary of the Venice Biennale.


— Susan L. Aberth
Edith C. Blum Professor of Art History and Visual Culture
Bard College

lsabel de Obaldía studied architecture at the University of Panama and drawing at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris before receiving a BFA in Graphic Design and Cinematography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1979. Isabel de Obaldía’s art captures and interprets de history and culture of Panama. Since her first solo show in 1977, de Obaldía has been selected as a guest artist in international drawing, painting, sculpture and glass symposia as well as survey shows of contemporary art. In 2009 she was awarded the Rakow Commission by the Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY), and in 2011 she had a mid-career retrospective Primordial: Paintings and Drawings by Isabel de Obaldía, at the Museum of Art of Fort Lauderdale. De Obaldia was selected in 2022 for the 58th Carnegie International (Pittsburgh) Is it morning for you yet? where she exhibited two short videos Por Panamá la vida, with a series of drawings made during the Noriega regime, and Diary 2020. Isabel has been interested in bats for the past couple of years and has been working with scientists from the Smithsonian Bat Lab at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama following their different research. De Obaldía is one of the four artists to represent Panama at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. This will be the first time the Republic of Panama will have a national pavilion at the Biennale.