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No doubt 1999 Penn graduate Jessica Scofield will have a yarn to spin. For the past three nights, she has been piecing together a slinky red dress in a small corner of the National Showroom in Olde City, drawing scores of ogling onlookers and all kinds of attention that Philly's most famous seamstress, Betsy Ross, probably never received. Then again, Ross may have sewed the first American flag, but she never knitted in the nude. In a performance art exhibition at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the lean and school-girlish Scofield bobbed her knitting needles back and forth for about three hours each night, keeping much of the scarlet yarn strategically placed between her bare thighs while she weaved together the dress and then unraveled it back into string. Scofield, 27, hoped the show, called "The Undressed Project," would raise important questions about the female body image and provide thought-provoking humor, juxtaposing an old lady's hobby with a titillating striptease. But by all accounts, the mostly male audience seemed more interested in sizing up the "undressed" rack than intellectualizing about the "project." Indeed, most got up and left the tucked-away performance area as soon as Scofield put the completed dress on. That didn't seem to bother Scofield, who maintained the show was unabashedly artistic. "This is a way of getting my ideas across," she explained. "I admit there may be problems in the way I executed it, but I wasn't about to put on five-inch heels and start jiggling my stuff." In fact, Scofield said she found knitting in the buff was actually pretty boring; Scofield usually knits -- fully clothed, of course -- to keep occupied while watching television or talking with friends. Nonetheless, she said it was quite a revealing experience for her -- both emotionally and anatomically speaking. "I really hesitated," she said. "It wasn't this thing I was totally enthusiastic about doing because I was scared." But she thought the concept was too original to pass up. About two years ago, Scofield said she was at home knitting when she came up with the idea, thinking that her act would be an interesting concept to put on the Internet. Nervous, she approached classmates and professors at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts -- where she was taking a number of courses as part of a joint-program with Penn's College of General Studies -- who were supportive of her plans. But the small groups of portrait artists before whom she had posed didn't necessarily think she had the confidence to do it in public. "I can be somewhat sensitive in class, and they said, OThere is no way you can do this in front of the public eye: That's just not you,'" she recalled. "But I took this on as a personal challenge and I wanted to do it." In March, she applied on a whim to the Fringe Festival, but then didn't contact organizers to promote her selection because she still wasn't sure she wanted to do it. But over the summer, festival organizers convinced her that the nude act, if tastefully done, would make an important contribution to the Philadelphia arts community and perhaps advance her career. While Scofield has no plans to bare it all for the public again, she will continue knitting and she hopes to create other pieces of work that express her ideas of the female body image. In fact, she says the performance allowed her to grow as an artist, since being stared at by a largely male audience helped her internalize the scrutiny of the male gaze she only learned about in Penn Art History classes. And she also is looking to head to graduate school for a master's in fine arts at one of a number of top programs -- including the one at Penn. Wherever she goes, though, she'll be sure to capture the attention of the admissions committee. "I was videotaping this piece," she said of the Undressed Project performance, "and it will be part of my grad school applications.

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