Recently I came across a new-to-me twist on paper sculpture – replicating historic costumes in paint and paper. I won’t touch on the issue of whether fashion design is more than a decorative art, but I consider it an artistic endeavor.
The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, has a new special exhibit “Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper,” which includes life-size trompe l’œil paper costumes, in addition to paper accessories such as shoes, jewelries and handbags, created by Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. French for “deceive the eye,” trompe l’œil is an art technique that uses photographically realistic details to create optical illusions; in de Borchgrave’s case, she uses paper and paint to simulate various fabrics.
The artist’s interest in creating paper costumes was sparked by a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1994, where she found herself inspired by the historic costumes on display. Back in her studio, she began to experiment with creating renditions of the pieces in paper.
According to de Borchgrave, “After I make some drawings, after I put the paper on the table, I have to choose the color to give the effect. Sometimes it’s more satin, sometimes it’s like a felt … or silk. I look and I try to find the effect through the color. When I find that, I paint all the paper … and after, there are people who cut the paper and put it together. For sure, I am next to them because I have to decide if it’s large enough or maybe too big or maybe too little. That’s like haute couture for all the dresses you can see in that exhibition.”
You can see closeups of garments created for the 2009 exhibit called Les Medicis: Le Reve Revient here. The costumes take center stage after about 45 seconds of location footage, and the video shows their sumptuousness through slow pan shots.
De Borchgrave’s website gives a taste of her current projects such as the life and work of Picasso. She is also involved in fabric and paper products design, and rents out her studio for special tours and gatherings. You and 14 others can enjoy a guided tour of her Brussels studio for a minimum of 225 Euros.