06/18/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT
Hook about 7,000 bras, donated by women all over the world, into a 5'4" sphere, and what do you get? According to Emily Duffy, who is doing just that in her El Cerrito, Calif., studio, you get a work of feminist art she calls BraBall. You also get a bra brawl because Ron Nicolino, another Bay Area conceptual artist, is making his own, even larger ball of unmentionables. Denied permission to string 40,000 bras across the Grand Canyon, Nicolino, 61, discussed collaborating with Duffy. He, however, wanted a ball 15 ft. in diameter. Duffy, 43, demurred; "Anything more than the average height of a woman would be oppressive," she said. So she got a copyright and hired a lawyer to assert her exclusive rights, while Nicolino got an attorney to defend his freedom of artistic expression. At least there's enough lingerie to go around. Lydia Gans, 70, gave Duffy seven bras. "I wanted to support her," says Gans. "Besides, I needed to clean out my underwear drawer."