Friday, January 28, 2022

Fashioning Art from Paper at Artis-Naples

Marco Islanders had a bit of fun with the Les Ballets Russes collection. From left: Donna Wadsworth, Barbara Parisi, Karen DuMontier and Carol Donegan.

“The same day that I could walk for the first time, I picked up a piece of paper, started to draw, and I have not able to quit since then.”

Contemporary artist, Isabelle De Borchgrave was very passionate about drawing from an early age. She trained at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and by age eighteen had established her own art studio. She taught art classes to local school children. At her boutique, Tour de Bebelle, she sold hand painted silk dresses as well as artistic items for the home. But fashion was her passion and she is known worldwide for her life-size paper sculptures.

A visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City in 1994 provided De Borchgrave’s inspiration for her first series of paper dresses, Papiers de la Mode. At her visit she declared on the spot, “Why don’t we make our own exhibition.”

Along with Rita Brown, a historical costumer and expert in historical pattern making, the two began experimenting with glue, paper, paint, patterns and techniques for making paper sculptures. De Borchgrave wanted to create a series “in the spirit of the original but not as copies.”

The Splendor of the Medici series was inspired by a visit to the Florentine Museums in the Palazzo Medici and while standing in front of the frescoes, she decided to tell her own story of the Medici Family.

Les Ballets Russes was led by impresario Sergei Diaghilev where he pushed his modern interpretation to the extreme. The costumes in the ballet were fashioned by such artists like Picasso, Bakst and Matisse. De Borchgrave’s interpretation was the start of her “Modern Art Collection.” She loved the combination of “poverty and the richness” where the costumes were made from materials such as burlap potato sacks painted and dyed in bold colors.

The hardest thing about this exhibition is that you aren’t allowed to touch the dresses, which look so much like fabric. Working with leading costume historians and fashion designers, De Borchgrave creates her own story from a simple white paper. The life-size renditions of historic clothing are completely made from white paper, artfully manipulated, hand painted, crumpled, folded and pleated.

The Fashioning Art from Paper exhibit is a history of 300 years of fashion from the Renaissance gowns worn by Queen Elizabeth I to the fineries of the Medici Family and the whimsical costumes of Les Ballet Russes. This is a must-see-in-person event to be fully appreciated.

The exhibit of Fashioning Art from Paper is currently on display at Artis-Naples’ Hays Hall Galleries (5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples) through May and it portrays the history of fashion through Isabelle de Borchgrave’s stunning interpretations. February hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM, Sunday, noon-5 PM.

For more information visit or call 239-597-1900.


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