Zoë Buckman wants us all to see the light.
The multi-disciplinary visual artist grew up in a boisterous East London family, where her creative pursuits were supported and encouraged. After studying at the International Center of Photography, she found herself in New York City, creating sculpture, photography, embroidery and installation work inspired by themes of feminism, mortality and equality. Since them, her pieces have been exhibited at respected venues all over the world including Papillion Art (Los Angeles), Garis & Hahn Gallery (New York), Goodman Gallery (South Africa) and Getty Images Gallery (London)—to name a few. Most recently, she completed an Artist in Residence stint at Mana Contemporary.
But it was her struggle with epilepsy as an infant—and her resulting relationship to light—that informed her recent collaboration with Chelsey Leyland and Live The Process’ own Robyn Berkley on a limited edition bodysuit to support Epilepsy Society. The embroidered “mind’s eye” encircles the quotation, “For nowadays the world is lit by lightning.”
Here, Buckman talks about finding one’s authentic light:
Live The Process: Did you always know that you would be an artist?
Zoë Buckman: I grew up in a creative environment with actors, directors and writers on both sides of my family. I’m told that I was always creating something as a kid and I knew I would be an artist of some description. It wasn't until my teens that I started to focus my attention on the fine arts specifically, and it became apparent that—in a family of big personalities and three brothers—I felt the desire to make my voice heard.
LTP: You work in many mediums. Specifically, how does embroidery come into play in your artwork?
ZB: I studied textiles when I was 15 and learned basic stitching, though not really the history behind it as a form of feminist and female expression. At that age, I was also listening to a lot of hip hop—almost obsessively. So, later, when I had learned more about the craft’s backstory and decided to embark on a large-scale installation about the relationship between 90s hip hop and feminism, embroidery felt like the perfect medium. The medium has both a nostalgic quality within the context of my own life and roots in the female lineage and toil of women.
LTP: How did you come to collaborate with Chelsea Leyland and Robyn Berkley on the Farfetch and Fivestory limited edition bodysuit to support Epilepsy Society? Is philanthropy important to you?
ZB: Chelsey and Robyn are both friends of mine, so the collaboration fell into place easily for this. Chelsea is aware that I had epilepsy as a baby and so there was a genuine link between me and the project and cause. Chelsea and I talked a lot about our relationship to light and flashing strobes as a result, and I shared with her the fact that I’ve used light viscerally throughout my artistic practice: first with photography, then with neon. The first piece of neon I ever made was a large sign depicting my favorite literary quote. At age ten, I saw my mother’s production of The Glass Menagerie and I was completely enthralled. The penultimate line of the play permeated my consciousness and refused to leave, and that’s what we used for the bodysuit.
LTP: What are your current wellness obsessions?
ZB: I’m actually really into boxing right now! It started as a means to keep engaged with a fitness practice, but it’s grown into a really important part of my life. It’s teaching me, slowly, to be comfortable owning my space, and I'm learning how to use my body to take space away from others. It’s perfectly aligned with the work I'm doing right now, which has come out of the attacks on Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights in the US. It's also bumbling to absolutely suck at something and have to find my feet in a very macho environment.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
ZB: My daughter and husband with me. We’re laughing.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
ZB: To me, it’s about authenticity and being true to ourselves. Owning our shit. Growing where we need to and softening when possible.