Art Gallery: Imprison Her Soft Hand

I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Zoe Buckman‘s gallery at Newark’s Project for Empty Space . The gallery does not have many pieces — unfortunate, as I was left wanting more. But what it lacks in number, it pays back tenfold with impact and power.

Now, I must confess, I’ve never been too good at interpreting modern art. I don’t like being left with questions — which seems to be the point of it all — to make you think. Fine. However, Feminism I do understand. My personal definition of feminism — is that we can do whatever the fuck we want. Medical field? Yes. Juris Doctor? Definitely. House wife? Absolutely. As women, we have the right to choose the career, life, and morals that we want. And when we do achieve our goals, we don’t want to be oppressed by men that think they understand women and their bodies more than we do. (how many women are in The Cabinet now?).

So when I heard about this gallery via Refinery29, I knew I had to visit. Not only did it call to me as a female fighter (Krav Maga — although, lately, an extremely lazy one) but also because it was right in my city, Newark. That in itself actually blew me away. I believe in the potential of this city — but I also know that it’s potential can be describe as a blank canvas. So I hope that other artist’s will be able to take Zoe Buckman’s lead and bring their art, creativity and passion to a city that is about to bubble over the edge with it.

The press release for the exhibit says

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 with Western Society.”

The paradoxes of femininity are certainly vast. It’s impossible to grow up without being given so many different ideals of what a woman should be.

The release continues,

“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 whoe or what women are (the answer being there is no standard for who, what, how, when or why women are as a collective group).”


This thought hit a little close to home. I’ve lately been struggling with the question of who I am as a woman. Not a crisis or anything, but at the age of 28 and no carved out career plan, nor plan to pop out a few babies any time soon, I’ve been lately feeling adrift in this universe. I’m sure women of all different cultures and backgrounds have it rough, but I can only attest to my Hispanic upbringings that sometimes it can be hard to be a super feminist. I’m sure it’s not in all families, but older generations don’t seem to get the concept of girl power. Yes, they want their daughters to be educated and have careers and opportunities — what parent wouldn’t? But on top of being intelligent, studious, and have a successful career we are also expected to be attractive, be married, have children, and be able to cook and clean.

I can’t be the only one I’m not I have sisters who’s cooking is mediocre at best who has been yelled at by their mother when being too lazy. I remember back to high school and college and living at home, when all I wanted to do on a Saturday was sleep past noon and nothing else. I remember my mom ranting about how my husband will eventually leave me for being lazy. It was almost comical but my mom is tiny and scary and  you better know I got up to do chores with a quickness. Of course she never meant it in an anti-feminist way, nor was she implying that I should do all of the housework as a woman — but it was her own upbringings reflected in her words.

Which is why I think super-hero feminists in today’s world are super important. Women like Zoe Buckman propel feminism forward. And it can’t be easy with the anchors of history weighing them down.

The inspiration for this exhibit comes from John Keates poem Ode to Melancholy. The press release states

“Though she has been a long time Keats’ admirer, the artist was unable to resolve the problematic implications of the stanza ‘Or if they mistress some rich anger shows/ Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave / And feed deep deep deep upon her peerless eyes.’ “

The beauty in her work is in the contrast. Traditional soft wedding fabrics on boxing gloves meant to be represent ferocity depict how the artist feels about women — that they can, and must be ‘feminine’ AND ‘ferocious.’

Buckman’s past exhibits include her proudly displaying her placenta at the Garis & Hahn gallery on Bowery. In an interview with Refinery 29 she describes,

“For this work, the placenta is really a jumping-off point for an exploration of themes around time and mortality, fragility, and resilience. I believe it mirrors our journey as humans in that we come from nothing, have a limited time to do a job we’re supposed to, and we then end up in some kind of trash bag.”

Read all about that here

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