- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

D.C. residents again can see the crocheted nude figures that created an uproar in 2005, but this time artist Ming Yi Sung Zaleski has found a more welcoming venue for her work.

“Public Art Private Parts” is an exhibit of completely crocheted pieces. Only this time it’s not scaring people in the lobby of an office building as it did in 2005, when Miss Zaleski’s work caused a stir that led her to partially censor the art. Now, it’s just drawing stares, giggles and even buyers at the Nevin Kelly Gallery in Northwest.

The naked human and animal figures are back with a whimsical, five-minute film that explains why fig leaves are covering the anatomically correct crocheted private parts. (Those who aren’t offended are invited to lift the leaves.)

Brandon Bloch, a first-year graduate student at American University, created the film about how Miss Zaleski responded to complaints from a law firm tenant of the downtown D.C. building. She was asked to remove her work from the lobby exhibit, called “Not the Knitting You Know.”

Mr. Bloch used interviews with Miss Zaleski, gallery owner Nevin Kelly and the knitting exhibit’s curator, Binnie Fry, along with animated figures representing Miss Zaleski’s art.

The film also features animated caricatures of aghast, high-society people. “I was saving myself for my wedding night,” a crying matron wails after seeing crocheted genitalia. A mustachioed gentleman with a cane and top hat wonders, “What manner of beast created such indecency?”

In response to the law firm’s requests to remove her art, Miss Zaleski added fig leaves to the offending private parts.

“It never crossed my mind to have my work censored,” said Miss Zaleski, 33, an elementary school teacher in Montgomery County.

“I figured this is a grown-up working place and if people are bothered by it, I’ll cover it up, and if people want to see what’s underneath, they can look,” she said of the 2005 exhibit.

Each figure took her about two weeks to create, and her work includes male and female private parts of monkeys, humans and a goat. She also includes hermaphroditic figures.

“I’m not really a very political person,” Miss Zaleski said. “I just wanted to do my artwork, and I am still very interested in human figures. I don’t like making sweaters when I crochet.”

The Taiwan-born artist said she has moved on from the controversy, which she finds amusing.

She noted that people who complained — mostly men — kept their eyes on the art. “Even though their feet were walking, their heads kept turning and looking in this direction,” she said. “If it bothers them so much, why do they keep looking?”

Julia Morelli, deputy director at the Nevin Kelly Gallery, said the current exhibit has been well received, with no complaints — not even from the church next door. Three of nine available pieces have been sold.

“Everyone who walks by the gallery stops to stare or giggle and point,” Miss Morelli said. “Most of the people who come in are just in awe of Ming’s skill as a crocheter. Even the women from the church next door to the gallery were mainly interested in the amount of skill and energy that goes into crocheting pieces like this.”

Mr. Kelly, whose gallery is known for fusing traditional and modern art, purchased one of the larger pieces, “Settlement with Monkeys,” before arranging Miss Zaleski’s show.

The free exhibit is on display at the Nevin Kelly Gallery at 1517 U St. NW until Feb. 7.

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