You know how it is—you have a Giant Bra Ball in your garage and don’t know what to do with it. You haven’t been able to park your car inside for years. It’s time to get serious about finding it another home. But where?
This particular Giant Bra Ball was made by San Francisco Bay artist Ron Nicolino in the late 1990’s. He intended it as a whimsical way to bring awareness to the serious issue of breast cancer. When it wasn’t displayed on a flatbed trailer parked outside of the Pier 23 Café in San Francisco, he hauled it behind his pink Cadillac up and down the California coast. In July 2001, it was featured in Mendocino’s Fourth of July parade.
You might think such a ball is unique, but it isn’t. During this same period, another was constructed by San Francisco artist Emily Duffy, thus igniting the infamous Giant Bra Ball War.
It all began after Nicolino was denied his vision of “Bras Across the Grand Canyon.” He searched the artistic community for anyone who might make use of his collection of donated bras. Duffy answered the call. They attempted to collaborate on an artistic piece, but were unable to agree about who should get credit for the original Giant Bra Ball idea. Nicolino ended up keeping his bras and started rolling them while Duffy sent out a plea for donated bras and began rolling her own. Except through their lawyers, they never spoke again.
Duffy’s ball is part of the permanent collection at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
But where is Nicolino’s? My July 2014 blog post “A Ballsy Idea” attempted to find the answer.
Nearly eight months later, I received a cryptic electronic message from Nicolino’s daughter Ruby: “I know where it is.”
A tickle ran up my spine. Through email exchanges, Ruby told me that Nicolino took the Giant Bra Ball with him when he moved to Washington State in 2002. After he passed away in 2009, it was transported to a secret location in California.
If Nicolino’s Giant Bra Ball isn’t in your garage (it actually could be in mine—hiding behind a mountain of other stuff), I imagine it somewhere dark and lonely, checked on occasionally by family and friends. Wouldn’t it be great if it could once again see the light of day?
Ruby would love to see it installed in an art gallery or institution for breast cancer awareness. She also suggested that it might be auctioned off on eBay with the proceeds going to charity.
Ruby mentioned Burning Man and this got me thinking. Perhaps the organizers could plop the Giant Bra Ball down in the middle of the event. As they unroll it, they could distribute bras like party favors to people (who I understand are otherwise naked). At the very end, everyone would rip off their bras and toss them on top of a bonfire. Nicolino’s creation would go out in a blaze of glory.
All this thinking has given me a bit of indigestion, but here’s another idea:
Why don’t we buy it? By “we,” I mean Fort Bragg or Mendocino. It’s just the type of quirky, yet socially relevant art that our community embraces. I visualize it attracting attention in a number of locations.
Please let me know if you have any suggestions for this Giant Bra Ball. I really do want to start parking my car in the garage.
(Thanks a bunch to super talented and all around great guy Tony Arguelles for the Photo Shop magic.) (And for the photo of the Savings Bank of Mendocino.)
What a unique and fun way of raising awareness for a serious issue ! Fancy checking my blog out ?
How titillating! 🙂
How about putting it at the center of the Simpson Lane/Highway 1 roundabout?
Love it. How surprised was Marcia to see her house?
Very surprised! She wants to do a Go Fund Me campaign so she can have it as a permanent installation.
Hilarious! Many Giant Bra Ball could ride the Skunk Train? Regarding the Burning Man idea – I don’t think women wear bras to that event, do they? Maybe a few men. . .
That should have been Maybe Giant Bra Ball . . . LOL
The possibilities are endless! (I’m serious, though, in wanting Ruby and her family find it a home.)
I was well acquainted with the infamous Nicolino, having been married to his other daughter at the time. After he passed I drove the bra ball back to its final resting place in the bay area from his home in northern Washington, all in one shot.
It was a long, weird day filled with many terrifying and hilarious moments.
It’s a pretty fun story to tell if I have a couple drinks in me. Definitely going in the memoir.
I agree that it should have a second life, and I like your burning man idea, but for, you know, burning man itself.
I think most of Ron’s work was more about making the squares drop their monocles in their teacups than giving giggle-fits to rich white brogrammers on psychedelics.
But yeah, it needs to be set on fire. It was already starting to get mildew.
Thank you Jeff for taking the time to share this information. If you ever get a couple of drinks in you and want to share stories about your Bra Ball towing adventures, please do!
I’ve contacted Burning Man, TV stations and newspapers in the Bay Area and have not heard back. If you have any ideas for who might be interested, please let me know.
Maybe it should be donated to the Smithsonian.
I think so, too. I’m surprised that no one has stepped forward to take it.