Pantyhose are the daughters of nylon stockings and the granddaughters of silk stockings — gossamer, suggestive forms that women once draped over racks to dry. In work preceding this one, I draped pantyhose over a fence on my road and at the municipal pool to get that same effect.
My love of dance inspired me to add motion and energy to those early forms. After so many summers watching the American Ballet Theatre in Saratoga Springs, I knew those legs needed to dance. They needed to leap for joy, and run to parties and to be cheerleaders. They needed to tell more stories about women’s lives and who we are. So I decided to stuff them and to make them move.
I started collecting materials to reflect girls and women at different points in their lives (and legs). I thought about young girls and used the crepe paper and confetti to represent all of those cheerleaders and football games, Halloween, prom dance decorations. I gathered plastic eggs, kitchen scrubbers, toilet paper, ribbons, lace, buttons, feather boas, and pom-poms of all sizes.
Nobody’s perfect: I dyed and printed and filled some hose so that the legs were misshapen and deformed. They are suspended in life, in place and truer to a large part of society. I made ballerinas’ legs on point and elegant. Some have thin ribbon down the back of the legs and bows tied at the ankle. Some are theatre masks in black and white, the Ying and Yang of life.
I filled some legs with heart shaped lollipops that felt like vertebrae. Are they for lovers or the strength that we must have and a stiff back? Some are just long and thin and pubescent. I sewed zippers on all sides seductively to suggest that one could get in and out quickly or slowly.
The legs full of puzzle pieces seem dragged down with the weight of the pieces and puzzles of our lives. Some have a combination of batting and silver tinsel; they’re cut them so the tinsel is pulled out and feels like varicose veins, our life’s blood seeping out.
I sewed my nametapes from camp down the side of one pair. I clearly remembered sitting with my mother for hours while we labeled everything so that we three children could go off to camp and return with our own clothes.
Some legs were sad, as if their lives were hopeless and impoverished; they have fragments of rags attached. There were dancers and those with heavy hearts. They filled every role that we are asked to hold, play and to do in our lifetimes.
The legs are emotional, historical, celebratory, sad. Overall, they’re meant to be both serious and fun. In the end there were twenty-seven pieces. And someone asked me why there were not twenty-eight to represent woman’s menstrual cycle. And so I made one more, and then more again.
This Pantyhose Installation is part of an ongoing project exploring women’s lives, through underwear, that I began in 2010.