Art using women’s hosiery
Rachel Brillante (The Freeman) - October 24, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Women’s hosiery isn’t something you’d necessarily expect to find hanging in an art gallery. Nor would you usually think of tights as thought-provoking.

But “Gossamer,” an exhibition at Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate, shows that nylon pantyhose and garter-held stockings can be a rich source for artists.

“Gossamer” brings together work by 22 artists – including Louise Bourgeois, Sarah Lucas and Man Ray – who have made art using stockings as subject matter or as a material instead of, say, paint or steel. The show touches on themes of race, gender, femininity and subversion.

Zoe Bedeaux, the show’s curator, is a performance artist, poet, and former stylist for photographers. She has had little experience curating exhibitions, but in her other work, Bedeaux frequently explores the semiotics of fashion. She was interested in “the conversation of clothes,” she said in a recent interview at the gallery.

Carl Freedman, the gallery’s founder, acknowledges, “It’s not like we’ve hired somebody from the Tate.” Last autumn, he says, he approached Bedeaux, who he’d known for several years, about the possibility of putting together a show; she had already conceived a theme for an exhibition, and even had the name ready, Freedman says.

The show’s artists come from countries including Belgium, China, Japan, Mexico and Poland, as well as Britain and the United States. The works range from an elegant 1945 Man Ray photograph that depicts a woman’s head covered in gauzy, veil-like nylon, to the Iranian artist Shirin Fakhim’s jarring, full-size sculpture of prostitutes in Tehran made, in part, from stuffed tights.

“I love that disparity and that breadth,” Bedeaux says. “You’re looking at these things and you’re always back to, ‘Oh my God, these are tights; these are stockings.’ And then you’ve got all these other dialogues going on…” She adds, “Tights are the base material, but this show is not about tights.”

“Nude” pantyhose, for example, can been seen as a symbol of racism, since, until recently, their shades bore little resemblance to the complexions of women of color. Bedeaux, who is of Caribbean descent, says that she remembers an aunt whose legs seemed to be a different hue from her body when covered in tights in a “nude” shade called American Tan. “They looked prosthetic,” Bedeaux says. “It was a totally artificial color.”

“Gossamer” runs until December 15, 2019 at Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate, Kent, England. Updates are at (

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