Bronzed Panties

Bronzed panties may sound like some virgin’s way of memorializing his first lay — the way moms bronze baby booties — but it’s not.

Elizabeth M. Stephens & Annie Sprinkle, the Love Art Laboratory, gathered pairs of panties from various well-known porn stars and academics and bronzed them (using the ancient lost wax process), then juxtaposed them together, with the name identifying the original wearers.

Porn stars and academics are both in the forefront of thought and practice around issues such as sexuality, and identity politics. In the academic world the brightest intellectuals are fetishized in a manner that bears certain similarities to the ways in which porn fans adore their stars. Both are sexy, powerful and compelling. Included are the bronzed panties of Vanessa Del Rio, Ron Jeremy, Kate Bornstein, Carla Freccero, Ph.D., and Erica Rand, Ph.D..

This work is homage and a wink to the bravery and chutzpah of porn stars and adventurous academics, be it in the classroom or on the silver screen and who have changed the ways others see the world.

Erica Rand collaborated with Stephens for Formula of Desire, an exhibition of several pairs of panties. Each bronzed panty was encased in a vitrine. Each vitrine was etched with text describing an accomplishment or activity of the original owner. Erica wrote text describing certain kinds of desire.

This text floated on the wall above the piece:

She’s my type; they’ve got chemistry; gf seeks sm; roses, candlelight, lingerie. A butch 8 = 6 + a tool belt or a femme top = a tranny 5. Formulas of desire are mathematical and liquid. In there and out there. Hardwire and feather boa. Luscious products. Sexual economy. Bronze my panties and I’ll fill your vitrines.

Formula of Desire: Academic/Porn Star Panties, was exhibited at the Bates Museum of Art, and this is part of the catalog text:

She’s my type; they’ve got chemistry; gf seeks sm; roses, candlelight, lingerie. Formulas of desire may seem mathematical (a butch 8=6 + a tool belt or a tranny 5) or liquid (ditto). Their ingredients may be transparent or opaque, material or intangible, glittery or dark, unalterably hardwired or feather-boa malleable. They may be some, none, or all of the above. They may be experienced as internal even as they are fanned, indeed sometimes produced, among luscious products—material products, products of interpretation, products of interaction.

Formulas of teaching, writing, and making are equally perverse. Myths of creation meet structures of recognition at the fraudulent solo. Group projects meet the gpa. Lonely cultural producers meet the lie of it. We lock ourselves up to write a book, make art —close our office doors, barter self-absorption for extravagant attention later on. But even in there we’re out there: working from, for, with readers, activists, artists.

Collaborations make visible, central, and better that non-solo core of process. They are formulas of practice that can be as hot, as difficult, as fabulous as any other sparked meetings. Bronze my panties and I’ll fill your pink boxes. Nothing could be more simple. Or less so.

I’m just going to be silent for a few moments to honor all of this.

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