Cynthia Zeman recently received her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She majored in film production as an undergraduate at New York University, and her experimental film, Phoenix, was bought by Warner Brothers and taken on tour as an opening act by the band King Crimson. It also won best Experimental film at the Houston International Film Festival. Her paintings are held in collections in New York and Spain.
Cynthia Zeman makes paintings that are colorful, pretty and humorous. They are about personal memories and societal issues around women, politics and the contemporary media. Collaging divergent images from high art, pop-culture, personal family photos, advertising, to funny baby goat videos from the internet, sticker books and hair curler packaging, the jumbled compositions have a cohesive unity in their discordance – much like real life. Her work emphasizes and exaggerates concepts of perfection and beauty in femininity. Contemporary “unladylike” women challenge and subvert stereotypes and expected behavior that is taught in childhood. The resulting images offer multiple interpretations of social and personal narratives, and some urgent responses to the political moment in which they are produced. She is interested in capturing these everyday paradoxes and recognizing the past as part of our lives today.
Curtains framing the paintings are a reminder of previous eras of conventional feminine skills, in addition to referencing blackout and performance curtains. They also raise questions about what is left out, what we don’t see, and what we avoid thinking about. Whether it’s the still-stultifying expectations for women, or what is going on politically in the outside world, we all escape and disengage. What is recognized and really seen? What is ignored? To what do we willing consent? What is made visible when we revisit the past?
What does “Gaze” mean to you & how do you connect it to your work?
All of my work is concerned with women and how they are perceived by society. This “gaze” and the expectations that automatically are assumed to go along with them are stultifying and censorious about the actual women being looked at and judged. It makes it difficult to exist in the world and be yourself, when always trying to second-guess what others think of you – it gets in the way of becoming your true self. It is also isolating, as it can be difficult to form a community when sometimes the women involved are under pressure to be performatively “normal or “acceptable.”