February 5-June 5, 2011, San Francisco
Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave is a painter by training, but textile and costume are her muses. Working in collaboration with leading costume historians and young fashion designers, de Borchgrave crafts a world of splendor from the simplest rag paper. Painting and manipulating the paper, she forms trompe l’oeil masterpieces of elaborate dresses inspired by rich depictions in early European painting or by iconic costumes in museum collections around the world. The Legion of Honor is the first American museum to dedicate an entire exhibition to the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave, although her creations have been widely displayed in Europe.
Pulp Fashion draws on several themes and presents quintessential examples in the history of costume—from Renaissance finery of the Medici family and gowns worn by Elizabeth I and Marie-Antoinette to the creations of the grand couturiers Frederick Worth, Paul Poiret, Christian Dior, and Coco Chanel. Special attention is given to the creations and studio of Mariano Fortuny, the eccentric early-20th-century artist who is both a major source of inspiration to de Borchgrave and a kindred spirit.
-excerpted from the Pulp Fashion invitation
Some things don’t change. When I first met Isabelle de Borchgrave in 1996, I stood in awe of her artistic talents and achievements. I feel the same way now. Isabelle lives in Brussels, but exhibits her many creations worldwide. She is a painter, a paper sculpture genius, and makes a mean cup of espresso.
When Wild Apple first published her artwork, Isabelle was still painting and exhibiting traditional canvas paintings of decorative flowers and landscapes. All the while textiles and fashion were her passion. Whenever we visited her Brussels studio, mannequins adorned in costumes of the drawing rooms of Marie Antoinette, or of the time of Cleopatra, surrounded the work tables and easels. Using historical reference and fashion history, Isabelle began to make fashion history herself, with paper and paint her humble media. Her work tables were strewn with tissue thin papers for ethereal layers, gathered and formed to be a decorative cuff or a cascading skirt inset. Painted (and often) perforated papers were in various states of shaping for the main dress parts, the papers are gathered, pleated and tucked to suggest many different types of textiles from sheer silks to heavy damasks. Once she had some silver-painted paper she was crumpling and pleating to resemble a crushed silk with astonishing results. I sipped her strong espresso and imagined how I’d find my way toward my own creative passion.
Then in 1998 her first collection of painted paper dresses, Papier a la Mode—created with Canadian costume artist Rita Brown—began to make the rounds at European and US museums. There was an opening at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and another at the MFA Boston. Isabelle has gone on to make paper kimonos, the Fortuny collection—exhibited in Venice—and the list of exhibitions grows along with her collection of stunning paper dresses.
If you happen to be in San Francisco this spring you could lay your eyes on Pulp Fashion. It would even be worth a special trip.