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BELLEVUE -- There are dozens of them, zipping along vectors of monofilament nylon, like so many black and pink Klingon warships.

Stand quietly and you can sense the electromagnetism that drives these tiny craft. There it goes again.


In truth, the propellant behind "Intervention of Thongs and G-Strings" in the lobby of the Bellevue Art Museum is a pint-sized New Yorker named E.V. Day, a Connecticut-born installation artist in kilt and Captain Hook boots.

The display of not-so-lacy lingerie, funded by the museum, is hovering here until June 1. The thongs first took flight in the mills of Frederick's of Hollywood, then found their way to the Philip Morris Atrium in New York City, where the Whitney Museum of American Art shares space with shops, an espresso bar and a newsstand.

Promotional materials say the display suggests "a kind of public aviary."

But what the 35-year-old artist had in mind was the politics of fashion and power and women and, right up front, sex.

The idea came to her a couple of summers ago in Manhattan as women were introducing thongs to the general body politic. That is, in plain daylight.

Frederick's takes credit for the invention, in 1981, but fashion historians say that the thong dates to the 1939 New York World's Fair and that fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, he of the topless swimsuit, was showing off these minimalist undies as early as 1974.

For those who don't know, a thong is about as minimal as you can get in a costume for the female body. Picture a couple of shoe strings connected to an eye patch and tied together, belt high, in back.

"People I talked to said they were wearing them because they were so comfortable and didn't create a panty line," Day said.

"But they were so out there, it was absurd. I mean, no panty line, sure. But the way these women wore them, above their hip huggers. . . . It was a political statement."

Northwest adaptations of the fashion can be observed on most college campuses -- and even at high schools.

Day, a sculptor with a master's in fine arts degree from Yale, credits Frederick's for subsidizing her effort with a thousand units. That is to say, no more than you could stuff into a common lunch bucket.

Day gave them some body by dipping them in a resin and allowing the hardening to take place while they were stretched into the shape of a stealth fighter. Monofilament nylon and turnbuckles complete the display.

"Something as delicate as ladies' underwear . . . skimpy panties . . . turned into luminous Klingon jets," she said, then shook her head in honest delight.

"It's like . . . effortless," she said. "Speeeuuussssh! Flying."

When the thong idea hit her, Day was rebounding from an exhibit in which she took an oversized copy of Marilyn Monroe's white dress -- the one over the subway grate in "The Seven Year Itch" -- and exploded it into multiple pieces.

The resulting "Bombshell" became one in a series of sculptures she called "Exploding Couture."




Take a peek and decide for yourself. Admission to BAM's lobby is always free.

Today, as on the last Saturday of every month, admission to the entire building also is free.

The museum is in the 500 block of Bellevue Way Northeast opposite Bellevue Square and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.