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Uncovering the masked identities of Claude Cahun

Illustrator Alice Buckingham explores the work of French photographer, sculptor, and writer Claude Cahun

By Ally Faughnan

For the launch of the Made By Women x The Gallyry bookmarks, our Made By Women series celebrates inspiring artists through conversations with amazing illustrators. Check out the bookmarks over on Etsy.

Alice Buckingam is an illustrator, animator, and self-confessed frog enthusiast. The Brighton-based artist’s work is cute and cheerful, and her figures have championed the perfect eye-roll.

Alice’s illustration of Claude Cahun recreated the recognisable image of the French photographer, sculptor, and writer, known for their self-portraits – although instead of standing in front of a mirror, they are standing in front of a serene, green view.

Courtesy of Alice Buckingham

Please can you tell us a bit about your illustration of Claude Cahun?

The reference image I used for my illustration was one of Cahun’s self portraits. In the original they are stood next to a mirror and you can see their reflection. In my illustration, I changed the reflection to a scene of trees and foliage to emphasise the unimportance of the reflection that we see in the mirror. I used pink, blue, and green which are typically the colours you respectively associate with femininity, masculinity, and neutrality.

"Cahun’s approach to gender and sexuality is inspiring and is liberating." – Alice Buckingham

How does Claude inspire you in your work and life?

I’ve never been a particularly ‘girly’ girl. Cahun’s approach to gender and sexuality is inspiring and is liberating in regards to androgyny. I was brought up in a pretty gender neutral way, thanks to my wonderful mother. There was never any emphasis on what kind of toys I should play with and what kind of clothes I should wear. Cahun talks of masculinity and femininity being situational, this is very relevant in my personal life and in my work, in the characters I draw.

Courtesy of Made By Women

Do you have a favourite work by Cahun?

I don’t think I have a particular favourite piece by Cahun. To be truthful, I wasn’t massively aware of their work before this project came about. Though I do really love the portraits from their series I am in training don’t kiss me. where they create a constructed identity with a really cool use of make-up, props, and clothing.

"Change is scary, but change is good! It’s all progress, even the mistakes." – Alice Buckingham

Claude Cahun once said: "Under this mask, another mask. I will never be finished removing all these faces." For you, how does art allow you to explore different identities or express your own identity?

I think this is super-relative to art and specifically illustration. Your style should be constantly changing and that’s okay! Under that mask there will be another mask, and you will learn from each mask as you develop as an artist and a person! Change is scary, but change is good! It’s all progress, even the mistakes.

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