Recently I attended an event hosted by The Art Soiree that centered around the current exhibit at the Hillwood Estate in DC, Prêt-à-Papier. The exhibit features stunning handmade, full scale dresses created by Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. The kicker is that each of the garments and accessories on display are made of just regular craft paper, paint, maybe a little glitter here and there, and glue to hold it together. That’s pretty much it! Each piece truly is a work of art, painstakingly constructed and painted in a process that takes an average of 3 months per dress – and that includes having the help of studio assistants. The works presented at Prêt-à-Papier draw inspiration from fashions throughout the 17th to early 20th century. The artist appears to be drawn to the royal grandeur and intricacies of the time periods. Before turning her focus on creating the paper costumes she’s now known for, De Borchgrave was an accomplished trompe l’oeil painter. “Trompe l’oeil” is a French term which means “to fool the eye” and refers to the art technique of rendering 2-D images with incredible realism. That painting experience seamlessly translates into the 3-D realm as De Borchgrave demonstrates her skill in manipulating the materials to create the illusion of satin, lace and other textiles in each fragile piece. It’s an accomplishment that photos can’t do full justice. The show is a delicious treat for the eyes, and yes, the pieces absolutely put your 3rd grade papier-mâché volcano project to shame.
In addition to the main exhibit in Hillwood’s Adirondack Building, you will find other pieces of Isabelle’s work sprinkled throughout the mansion itself where her garment asserts itself into the lush surroundings. When I took the tour, I was amazed to see how different each garment looked from the next. It seemed like De Borchgrave could make anything out of paper and paint! I never knew one could push its properties so far. This show is certainly worth seeing if you have any interest in fashion, paper crafts, or looking at cool stuff.
The exhibit is currently running until Dec. 30th. More info about the Prêt-à-Papier show and Hillwood Mansion can be found here.
Here’s some of what I captured during my visit:
Check out more pictures on Purple Paintbrush’s Facebook page!