Papillion Art, Leimert Park
(March 12 – April 30, 2016)
In her debut Los Angeles exhibit, British born, New York-based artist Zoë Buckman opens the door to the private boudoir, a female refuge long infiltrated and influenced by the male point of view.
Buckman’s installation is immersive in the most delicate and unexpected sense. Suspended from the gallery ceiling is a collection of vintage lingerie—nightgowns, stockings, garter belts, brassieres, teddies, kimonos, corsets and girdles (as in the days before Spanx)—in fine fabrics and a subtle spectrum of pastel colors like ivory, beige and pink. In shocking counterpoint to the feminine creams, silks and satins, the artist has hand-embroidered the garments with bold hip-hop lyrics by ‘90s rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. A flowery kimono floats in the air with the words, “I swear I’ll never call you Bitch again,” in red stitching across the back. The juxtaposition of these confrontational words on the personal item of clothing seems a shocking—and oddly intimate—violation.
Although Buckman was exposed to the music of many rappers, the provocative music of Tupac and Biggie made a profound impression on her during her formative years in East London. The artist had the advantage of growing up in an enlightened environment. Raised in an activist feminist household, she had an insight into the significance of the message behind the lyrics in the background.
Buckman’s use of embroidery as a medium for expressing her intent symbolizes the female experience. Traditionally, the dominant male hierarchy deemed embroidery an appropriate female art. Here, the “female art” is fully re-appropriated.
In a curious way, Every Curve chronicles a young woman’s coming of age in a male-dominated society that attempts to define, shape and objectify women. The work documents, with both poignancy and humor, the clash of background noise and influences that combine to construct the female identity.