Fine art and fancy lingerie aren’t the most obvious bedfellows, but a unique exhibition and sale this weekend will bring those two worlds together in a surprisingly complementary way.
Lingerie will be on the racks and on the walls at a two-day trunk show and sale called Exposed: Art + Lingerie that will feature the paintings of David Hostetler along with the sophisticated fashion collections from retailer Jane’s Vanity. It takes place Friday night and Saturday at the Hostetler Gallery in the popular summertime retreat of Nantucket, MA.
While many of the high-end European brands on sale will be familiar to lingerie connoisseurs, the artworks on display will be a revelation. The mixed-media paintings and prints feature actual lingerie items that have been pressed, glued and painted onto each canvas. Hostetler created the series in 2008-9 and has exhibited some pieces in his gallery, but this will be the first time the entire series has been put on display for a single show.
Now 89, Hostetler has a career that spans more than 60 years, all of it dedicated to representations of the female form. He’s best known as a sculptor and wood carver, and came up with the concept for his lingerie paintings after hearing a Steve Martin joke.
The comedian had an “underwear” routine in his early monologues that poked fun at people’s discomfort with words like panties, brassiere and lingerie, and later wrote an off-Broadway play called The Underpants that touched on similar ideas.
Hostetler explores that theme by imprinting lingerie-related words on his canvases alongside imagery of models wearing actual panties and bras.
“Steve Martin said he chose that title because underwear is such a loaded word, and the pun was certainly intended,” Hostetler said in an interview with Lingerie Talk. “I chose five different words to hide in the background of my paintings.”
He admits that artistic depictions of women’s underwear can be jarring to some viewers with refined sensibilities.
“It’s awkward for a lot of people, that’s one of the reasons I really liked it,” he said. “It’s something that’s hard to hang on your living room wall.
“It conjures up a wide spectrum of emotions, especially for men. It’s very embarrassing to a lot of men, but I think it’s their own thoughts that embarrass them. It just triggers something.”
The paintings also have a very personal dimension for Hostetler: the bras and panties glued to his canvases are all mementos from his past relationships with women. Specific details of each one are written on the back of the paintings.
“From early in my life I’ve always kept a souvenir from my romantic affairs,” said Hostetler (right), who has been married to wife Susan for 30 years. “So this is really a history of the love affairs of my life. It’s a very personal statement.”
Most of his past companions are aware of the project, and had mixed reactions.
“Some of them had a peculiar attitude about it,” he said, “and some of them were flattered.”
The largest works in the series are priced at $12,500 while the prints range from $1,950-2,750. The paintings will remain on display in the gallery until July 17.
For Jane’s Vanity, the renowned retail boutique from Portland, Ore., the Nantucket show is the furthest it has traveled for a trunk show since the store closed and the business went exclusively online two years ago. It’s also the most unique event they’ve hosted.
“(David’s) appreciation of the female form, both in his sculpture work and his much more literal lingerie paintings, is a really amazing compliment to our lines,” manager Emily Tate told Lingerie Talk. “We have done a lot of collaborations with various other stores, but finding this great a pairing with an artist is new and very exciting for us.”
Jane’s Vanity held a trunk show in Nantucket a year ago because a friend of store owner Jane Adams lives there, and that’s where the pair first met the artist and saw his paintings. Hostetler’s wife Susan was inspired to curate this week’s exhibition after reading Exposed: A History of Lingerie, the companion book to last year’s lingerie exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology museum in New York.
And anyone who doubts whether lingerie deserves to be shown in an art gallery might think again after seeing the collection of imported luxury brands that Jane’s Vanity brings to its events. The Nantucket sale will include artistic French labels such as Madame Aime and Elise Anderegg, Italian brand Dana Pisarra, and stylish British loungewear from Alöe and newcomer Morpho + Luna.
As for David Hostetler, the renewed interest in his lingerie art has inspired him to explore the subject further.
“I recently bought a shipment of Victoria’s Secret panties and bras, so I might do a Victoria’s Secret series,” he said. “This may push me to do it.”
Here are a few more examples from this weekend’s exhibition and sale at the Nantucket gallery. You can learn more, and order prints, through Hostetler’s website.