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An Uplifting Tale
by Lora Hart

Lift and Separate | Pump it up

Some bras are simple triangles of fabric, some elaborate constucts of lace and wire. Others employ the use of water, air pumps or silcone pads to enhance a maiden’s form. A bra worn by a nursing mother has a very special job to perform as does an exotic dancer’s pasties. Bras lift and separate or minimize your assets. They help restore a silhouette ravaged by a surgeon’s scalpel. They hint at fleshly delights just beneath the surface. A good bra is a many splendored thing.

In the hands of Emily Duffy, a San Fancisco artist, this titllating article of clothing has been elevated to new heights. “Breasts are often a source of conflicting emotions for women” says Ms. Duffy. “Using bras as an art medium is a way of disrupting some of the long standing taboos surrounding them”.

Emily’s eleven year background in the fashion industry and her annoyance with the highly sexualized Victoria’s Secret ads which pervade the media fostered her attraction to lingerie as an artform. While working with “The Beauty Project”, an art group she belonged to with 18 other women, Emily began doing still lifes using uniquely female items like tampons and douchebags. “Don’t worry” she assured me, “they were unused”. (So happy to know that, Emily.)

From her statuesque sculpture Mammolith (a nine foot tall replica of her wedding bra) to linolium block prints of rib crushing corsets, Emily’s lighthearted work featuring intimate apparel challenges the viewer’s ideas about the female body image. “I find that if you want to communicate a point about a social issue it’s much more effective to use irony and humor than to bash people over the head with some serious, heavy message”.

In October 2000, Emily came across an item in the San Francisco Chronicle detailing the efforts of a man to find a new home for his bra collection. “Initially I was only looking for a few hundred bras to make a “car bra” for my artcar, the VAINVAN. But when he insisted I would have to take the entire collection (several thousand), I asked myself ‘What would I do with that many bras?’” And therein lies the tale.

Emily conceived the idea of a BraBall during their first conversation. He loved the proposal so much, he went ahead and did it himself. So when Emily sent an email newsletter detailing her experience, women were so angered by the incident that they donated over 9000 bras for her to bring her BraBall to life.

“Creating the BraBall has been a remarkable experience. A woman’s status in the world doesn’t matter in regards to [it], we’re all equal. I really like that. My goal is to have it measure 5’4” - The height of the average American woman. This is to honor the women who are sending bras. They’re helping me build a monument to us all.”

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