Bridging personal and collective memory, Ma Qiusha’s ongoing work with nylon stockings began from a vivid childhood memory of her mother’s stockings while on her way to school. For Ma, the distinctive thick tan nylon stockings, popular from the 1970s through the 1990s, represented not only her own mother but also an entire generation of women.
Collecting decades-old stockings from friends, relatives, and acquaintances, Ma used this “second skin” to cover slabs of broken concrete shards, which are then pieced together into a colorful stone mosaic or fabric tapestry.
In Wonderland: Black Square, Ma has swapped tan nylon for black stockings, which have only gained popularity in China over the past two decades. Associated mainly with sex workers during Ma’s childhood, this formerly taboo color later became trendy in the early 2000s. Ma’s new iteration of the Wonderland series thus contrasts these two different generations of women: the nude stockings signaling Ma’s mother’s generation and the sensual black stockings referring to her own. The work entices viewers with their subtle and changing sheen, yet hints at a hidden tension between the delicate nylon and the jagged edges of its concrete shards.
“At a traffic intersection when the light was red, I saw everyone stop, all the cyclists stopped. At that moment, I saw a lot of mothers’ legs, and their legs were all wrapped in nylon stocking.”—Ma Qiusha 1
Interview with Ma Qiusha, July 17, 2019, conducted by Nancy P. Lin, translated by Greg Young.
Concrete, nylon stockings, plywood, resin, and iron
96 7/16 x 96 7/16 x 2 in. (245 x 245 x 5 cm)
Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, The Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2019.4