Artist Zoë Buckman loves hip-hop. She’s also a feminist. And she’s aware that those two ideas don’t always go hand-in-hand. Her latest project, a work-in-progress currently on display in Chicago, is a brilliant exploration of that conflict: She’s hand-embroidered Biggie and Tupac lyrics which reference women onto a dazzling array of vintage slips, bras, and undergarments.
In a recent interview with i-D, Buckman states: “As a feminist, my approach is not to shun them or their music and say, ‘That’s bad, I never want to listen to this.’ My approach is to take their words and recreate them as something beautiful and thought-provoking.”
Misogyny in hip-hop, rap, and pop culture is nothing new. Ask any feminist who found themselves dancing along at a party to last summer’s "Blurred Lines." Is it possible to love the music and hate the message?
Buckman’s project, titled “Every Curve,” seems to suggest that it is, although the final product, filled with nuance and complexity, leaves the question delicately suspended. The vintage pieces, as she told i-D, are chosen deliberately to explore representations of women throughout history, while also tackling the idea of embroidery and hand-sewing as traditional “women’s work.”
“I thought I would take the lyrics and embroider them onto these very flowy, silky, liberating '20s and '30s-era lace slips bralettes. But as I started working on those, I realized that I also wanted to create pieces from '50s, '60s, '70s lingerie, which were almost the opposite. They had Spandex, garters, wires under the breast cushion of the bra...everything was squished.”
The delicacy of the lingerie feels magnified and intensified by the sharpness of the lyrics–the juxtaposition of “Bitches, I like them brainless” on a 1950’s-era cone bra feels devastatingly apt–and yet the piece, as a whole, manages to avoid an overt feeling of rage or judgment. When asked about the delicate nature of the work, Buckman replied, “I don’t think that you have to always present as angry, masculine, aggressive to be a feminist.” Brava, Zoë Buckman.
For those lucky enough to be in Chicago between now and October 31st, her pieces can be found on display at the Allen Koppel Gallery in Chicago as part of a larger group exhibition. “Every Curve” is still a work-in-progress, and we’re so excited to see what the final outcome yields.