Introduction by :
Kady Ruth Ashcraft
Woman With The Good Meat Removed
8.25″ x 10.25″, 96 pages,
Edition Size 600
ISBN : 978-1-944005-10-8
Published by : Aint–Bad
An uncle of mine, who married into the family, once infamously described his wife and her four sisters, including my mother, as “hard women.” The particular phrase was lovingly slung out after Aunt Sharon, who had a master’s degree in poetry, sent my uncle out of the room for challenging her on the spelling of a scrabble word.
The utterance caught on and soon the women in our family wore it with pride. We were hard women. We were women who indulged in poetry, women who held court in rooms full of businessmen, and women who gently cared for children. We were women who had strong opinions on dark beers but would make dinner from whatever we could piece together in the fridge. We were women who lovingly embarrassed our own mothers by telling them what outfits we wore in the bedroom with lovers. We were women who let our bush spill out atop and on the sides of the flyest bikini bottoms, daring anyone to tell us to cover up. We were women who knew every damn word in the dictionary because that’s what we went to school for, so don’t challenge us on that.
Our hardness does not contradict our vulnerability. It doesn’t exist in the absence of our softness and sensuality, but alongside it. That’s what immediately drew me (and many other people) to the paradoxes within Zoë’s work.
At first glance, Zoë’s work leaves you simultaneously apologetic and aroused. Who are these women, and why are they being so vulgar? Yet who am I to judge? It looks fun! These collages give you a glimpse into private, performative acts of sexuality. In the midst of being a curious onlooker to her work, you often surprise yourself when you come across a scene in a collage and think, “Oh, I’ve done that!” It’s those unanticipated and fortuitous moments that begin to break down some long-standing barriers we as a society have put up around
sex and sexuality.
A lot of our introduction to our sexuality and desire begins with voyeurism; “accidentally” finding the late night softcore cable channels, walking in on people having sex, overhearing rumors about the bold and scandalous peers in our classes who DID WHAT?! And tied to a lot of that voyeurism is shame. Shame that we infringed on someone’s privacy, shame that we’ve been exposed to a very intimate side of another person, and often shame that we enjoyed it.
Shame is forever linked to pleasure. Not just sexual pleasure, mind you. The “guilty” pleasure of a good beer comes with the shame of calories. Indulgence in a makeover is followed up by the shame of narcissism. The artwork in this book is a resounding pleasure howl, a louder voice than the voices, both internal and external, that suggest you feel ashamed and embarrassed for your indulgences.
The women in these collages are soft and obscene. They’re indulgent and dominant. The endless multitudes and incongruities begin to fill out these faceless, meatless women, and let you spill parts of yourself into those gaping spaces (with consent, of course.)
Hopefully, we can all look back on this book in decades to come and laugh that we were so scandalized by it. “A woman bending over to display her hoo-ha? How TRITE!” Ideally, “Woman With The Good Meat Removed” is left on the coffee table for a curious eleven year old to drag back into their bedroom at night when everyone else is surely asleep. A young girl or boy will see these images and think, “who are these women who are having so much fun?” Maybe there will be a point when the intrinsic shame codified in these images will vanish. The shame will be removed, along with all that damn good meat.
Until then, know that you can remove all the good meat from the woman, but you still got the bones, and the bones are the hardest part of the body.