Zoe Buckman (born 1985) is a British artist, photographer, and producer.
Below is an analysis of some of her bodies of work.
LET HER RAVE (2016)
The title, “Let Her Rave”, is from a line from Keats’ poem “Ode on Melancholy”, to which this body of work is a response. Although Buckman has long respected Keats, she is does not ignore the problematic implications of the lines ‘Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows/ Imprison her soft hand, and let her rave/ And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.’ These lines depict the woman’s anger as trivial and invalid, while focusing only on her beautiful eyes, thereby objectifying her and suggesting her gender should ideally be passive and “soft.” Buckman’s discontent with these attitudes is evident in “Let Her Rave” – her boxing gloves dressed in what appears to be wedding-dress fabric show that “toughness” and “femininity” are not, and should not be perceived as, mutually exclusive.
MOSTLY IT’S JUST UNCOMFORTABLE (2016)
Buckman’s body of work “Mostly It’s Just Uncomfortable” responds to the recent onslaught faced by Planned Parenthood in the USA and the subsequent denial of sexual health to women. The work features an array of gynaecological instruments, and again, boxing gloves, all presented in shiny, lustrous, playful designs. One such sculpture, for example, is a collection of specula coated in a stunning rainbow motif, making them look like trinkets or jewellery. Another is a model of the uterus where two silver boxing gloves represent the ovaries, and the outline of the uterus is made of dazzling pink neon. Buckman uses these to subvert the unfavourable perception of these objects, which are important and at times life-saving. This juxtaposition of seemingly opposing ideas – in this case, the discomfort surrounding these medical instruments and the whimsically charming livery in which they’re coated – is common in Buckman’s work, and is an effective and powerful way to respond to issues.
EVERY CURVE (2016)
Every Curve is an exploration of two very different influences in Buckman’s upbringing: hip-hop and feminism.
The artist’s fascination with femininity is clear in her work, particularly in this body of work. It consists largely of hanging vintage lingerie, which are evidence of female objectification in our past culture, however the defining characteristic is that they are all embroidered with lyrics from Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G, which Buckman hand-embroiders herself. The lyrics all relate to women, and some are violently misogynistic, whereas others are pro-choice and sympathetic. The work really draws attention to the tricky relationship between Hip-Hop and feminism.
Embroidery may seem an ironic choice with which to depict rap lyrics, but Buckman has always been drawn to hand embroidery because it has long been a tool for female expression. The vintage lingerie draws attention to the female form and the issues of sexism and objectification, yet it also depicts a story of sexual empowerment & liberation through the ages. Buckman features garments from various decades to illustrate this: it shows how culture has progressed.
There is a noticeable emptiness about these garments; though once worn by many women they are now empty, and the viewer can’t help but consider that many of these women may have passed away, as have the two rappers. It draws parallels between these countless women about whom we know nothing, and two of the biggest names in rap.
Buckman grew up amid influences from feminism and Hip-Hop alike. Her East-London household was feminist and activist, and Hip-Hop was an integral part of youth culture. The Notorious B.I.G and Tupac were Buckman’s favourites, so in the interests of keeping the artwork personal the lyrics only come from these two artists.
The body of work deliberately does not leave out the misogynistic content of the lyrics, but instead showcases it alongside the more positive content: to omit the misogyny would arguably be to pretend it does not exist. Buckman actually uses it to explore the language and connotations of it as well as set up a dialogue between the feminine, female-expression-orientated aesthetic. Perhaps Buckman is suggesting that the lyrics and feminism do not have to be mutually exclusive, and that the two together create a message of female empowerment.
PRESENT LIFE (2015)
Buckman explores the connection between life and death in her varied body of work, Present Life. Childbirth, the beginning of life and perhaps the boundary between life and death, is a key theme because of its highly personal connection to Buckman – the body of work includes her placenta, plastinated and later encased in marble. As with much of Buckman’s work, the juxtaposition of two such contrasting things as marble and a placenta makes it a somewhat conflicted artwork, and it reflects the duality of the placenta itself, i.e. it’s ability to both give, and take away, life.
All autobiographical details from www.zoebuckman.com