Project For Empty Space is thrilled to announce the opening of Imprison Her Soft Hand, a solo exhibition by Zoë Buckman, on Wednesday, February 22nd, from 6-8 PM, at the Project For Empty Space gallery in Newark. Ms. Buckman’s project is part of Project For Empty Space’s GRAB BACK: PES Feminist Incubator Space.
Taking both its title and inspiration from John Keats’ Romantic-era poem “Ode on Melancholy,” Imprison Her Soft Hand navigates the complexities of traditional ‘femininity’ and female empowerment. Within this dynamic, Buckman questions paradoxes with the prescribed characteristics of femininity that continue to be espoused in Western society. For example: women are gentle, yet they are also hysterical; women are nurturing, yet weak; women are chaste, yet seductive. Buckman explores these ideas that are often at odds with each other. Her objects reflect a grossly generalized patriarchal narrative that perpetuates the idea that women are simply a discordant binary of characteristics.
Her ‘prettying’ of gender-specific medical objects and imagery, speaks to this complicated narrative around the female nature. These works speak to the idea that in this societal scenario, women are given very little agency or voice in shaping a true picture of who or what women are (the answer being that there is no standard for who, what, how, when, or why women are as a collective group).
Though she has been a long time Keats’ admirer, the artist was unable to resolve the problematic implications of the stanza ‘Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows/ Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave/ And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.’ She uses her discontent with this particular element as a departure for general critique on how society has come to view women, both in a historical and contemporary context. By outfitting bunches of boxing gloves in reconstituted wedding dress fabric, Buckman explores the complex aggressions that women face each day. Her use of seemingly discordant textures- ‘tough’ materials such as rough metal with soft ‘feminine’ fabrics, further speaks to this idea, as well as the idea that not only can women be both ‘feminine’ and ‘ferocious’, but that women must be that way.
The clusters of boxing gloves, Let Her Rave (2016), are not only a symbolic critique of patriarchal structures; but also, reflects her own love of the sport. Buckman has been boxing since, 2014, and advocates for women to become more involved in the sport not only as a means of self defense; but also, as a form of physical, emotional, and mental empowerment.