By Maddie Orton
To see artist Katie Truk’s installation at the Center for Contemporary Art, you’ve got to look up. Her site-specific work, Wishful Intentions, requires wire and string stretching across the entire length of the room to shape her medium of choice.
“Since ’99,” says Truk, “I’ve been working strictly with pantyhose.”
Truk traces her interest back to a birthday gift from a friend in high school: a tube of neon-colored nylons.
“I loved it. And I couldn’t take it out of the tube because I just thought they were so pretty. So I carried it with me as almost art and then in college, I tried to incorporate it with glass, and neon and ceramics and nothing worked,” she explains.
So, Truk ultimately decided the pantyhose worked wonderfully all by themselves.
“You can have the opaque, you can have the translucent, you can have the layering, you can have the textures all at the same time,” she says.
Truk makes everything from her smaller kaleidoscopic creations to this fantastical mosaic forest look easy, but she assures the material is not without its challenges.
Since shape is created by stretching out the nylons, Truk creates models first and then builds big. There’s also the matter of navigating the installation process around barely-visible strings.
“Installing, especially at these heights, we’re dealing with getting your body around the wires,” Truk says, “in order to be safe to install.”
And anyone who’s ever painstakingly pulled up a pair of pantyhose knows the material’s key risk factor: a run in the stockings.
“I love runs! I love them,” says Truk. “I just love how it adds texture, it adds different dimension.”
Thanks to friends of the arts center, Truk’s got plenty of pantyhose to work with. 15 pounds of pantyhose were donated by members of the community to create Truk’s trees.
“It’s delicate, but it’s also really strong,” Truk says of the material. “I mean, if you look, we have pantyhose being pulled by only a couple [of] points across the room and holding its weight. So there’s that duality that I really enjoy.”
Beyond Truk’s Wishful Intentions installation, the Center for Contemporary Art opens two other exhibitions this month: The Thing Itself featuring works on paper curated by art critic John Yau, and +1, a show that invites featured artists to be showcased next to a fellow artist of their choosing.