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“a thing of beauty”

Charmaine Beneyto

One would not necessarily think of a sock as being the most beautiful thing…

Yet upon first glance, this sock immediately draws you in. I recognise this sock; it is at once masculine, dirty, familiar and strewn across a teenage boy’s bedroom floor.

This is what Elena Hoskyns-Abrahall does. They take an object typically associated with shame – in this case, it is the ‘wank sock’ – and quite literally turns it into a thing of beauty. Taking simple objects, often familiar and stimulating a certain nostalgia that one might recognise as typically British, masculine and adolescent, they turn the very thing on its head by casting the object in preciousness. Described as an ‘object of desire’, the sock has been cast in porcelain and laced with freshwater pearls.

I am thinking about being not necessarily in the middle. Not really ‘middle’, but amongst. What happens if you’re amongst the detritus of growing pains? Hormones and longing. I asked to be and I am, isn’t it glorious?[1]

Elena Hoskyns-Abrahall

The artist is in a place of transition. And through their trans-masculine lens, they are indicatively pointing out to us what it means to come into a ‘second adolescence’. Through Hormone Therapy, the artist has quite literally begun to experience the pubescent rite of passage that all ‘boys’ will come to. And this, for Hoskyns-Abrahall, is a ‘thing of bliss’. Where once the ‘wank sock’ was so much associated with shame, the artist views these ‘things’, these objects, as artefacts of joy. The ‘symptoms’ that so many boys have been ridiculed for and ‘endured’ are the very symptoms that are so wanted, needed and craved by this transgender soul.

When a transgender person begins medical transition, it is as if they are transported to the point of adolescence again. The voice cracks, the skin transposes, the body odours, new hair grows and more emotions than you know what to do with erupt and launch into an explosion that detonates. Pair this with choice, with wanting, with needing, and you have the ‘second-adolescence’.[2]

Elena Hoskyns-Abrahall
A white sock on top of a plinth surfaced with beige ceramic tiles. Ants trail out of a vent at the bottom of the plinth.
Elena Hoskyns-Abrahall, Untitled Wank II, sterling sliver, porcelain, freshwater pearls, ceramic tile, aluminium vent (2023)

Untitled Wank II sees the wank sock elevated high up on a ceramic tiled plinth. The aluminium vent serves as a portal for the scurry of little silver ants that trail all the way up and surround the sock. The ‘trail’ is a play on the word for the strip of hair that leads up to the bellybutton from the pubis region. The ants, an army of honourable beings, associated with the prickling feeling that insects inject onto the skin, akin to the feeling the transgendered body experiences as sweat dries and hair sprouts. Ants are a symbol of queer desire, wanting to be exactly as they wish to be. The artist painstakingly works with each one, a process that lasts around five hours, as each ant is individually cast in wax, then metal and finally filed and finished. They collectively represent all that it means to be a community, fragile in their singularities and yet having much strength in their numbers. There is so much value in these objects. Each tiny one, another ‘object of desire’.

March 2024


[1] Elena Hoskyns-Abrahall, Charming, Exhibition Text, Sham Gallery, 1–3 March 2024, https://www.sham-gallery.com/charming.

[2] Hoskyns-Abrahall, Charming.

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