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Pulp Fashion at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco

Signage for the Pulp Fashion exhibit

A few weeks ago, TLo posted an entry about the Pulp Fashion exhibit.  (Check out the post, the images are gorgeous.) When I read that the exhibit was at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco and it was exhibiting now, I invited my friend Kyle to come with. Kyle is an instructor at FIDM and a clothing designer as well. Having a professional’s clothing maker’s perspective made this exhibit more informative. Seeing her reaction to the skill and technique of artist Isabelle de Borchagrave made it more impressive.

All the costumes are made of paper.

From the Legion’s website:

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.

Dress in white illustrating changing fashion

I snapped a couple of photos then was gently reprimanded by the guard. (Embarrassed to notice the “no photography” signs posted liberally at eye level.) Everything is unbelievably made of paper. Sheer lace is made with a fine gossamer.  Huge gemstones and filigree settings. Corset laces and grommets. All of paper.

I had the overwhelming need to touch everything–something. It was like having an OCD moment where you just need to turn the bottle so the label is parallel to the back wall.  The first room featured costumes, all in white. de Borchgrave created this collection to emphasize the “fluctuation of the fashionable silhouette.” The costumes flowed from era to era. You really could see the evolution of European dress without the distraction of color and pattern.

The amazing thing is that you forget that the outfits are completely constructed of paper. Kyle marvelled that the draping was impeccable–the dresses draped on the floor like cloth does. Between the recreations of Renaissance costume (there are no surviving Renaissance costumes in existence), the “wink at history” featuring iconic looks by Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, and the Bedouin exhibition tent of Madriano Fortuny of the 1911 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs; it’s a heady display of fascinating beauty that, frankly, overloaded my senses. My suggestion is to take all day to view this exhibit. Take a lunch break and have a picnic on the lawn. You’ll be able to take in more prettiness with a little respite in between.

Pulp Fashion
Legion of Honor
February 5, 2011 – June 5, 2011
Admission
$15 adults, $12 seniors 65+, $11 youth 6–17 and college students with ID, and free for children under 6 and members. They offer a public transportation discount with proof (Clipper card or timely transfer.)

Cutting Corners

February 10, 2010 Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago, after a fairly horrific dinner, my mom said that if I found a cooking class, she’d spring for it.  My culinary skills are legendary.  I make an excellent salad.  Add heat to the equation and the natives get fearful.

The thing is, if I follow directions, I do well.  After all, I am a chemistry minor.  I didn’t spend five hours every Friday night in O-chem lab making LSD soap for nothing.

The crux of the problem is that I am impatient — I’ll boil things when they should simmer and not let the bread rise. Then I don’t taste it because I get full before dinner. But making weird substitutions need a lot of flavor adjustments and I’m finding that many recipes in the magazines I love are extraordinarily bland.

It’s kind of a duh realization but one nonetheless for me: whenever I cut corners, even the dog won’t eat it. At this point, all I can do is take the time to do it right in the first place. Slow it down. (Alien concept for my Gemini mind, but necessary.) Test it out.  Even if it means I gain a few pounds for the effort.  At least, then, the dogs will eat it.

The Project Runway Effect

December 27, 2009 2 comments

Why is it that the stuff we make at the last minute is always the best?  I’ve been mulling this over while watching Project Runway on hulu.  The garment the contestants had to make 24 hours before their Fashion Week runway show was phenomenally superior to the outfits they toiled over for three months.

My creative friends are mystified by similar experiences.  Things they’ve thrown together for a last minute vendor event, stories they wrote hours before deadline–these are the things people rave about. Then we have the painstaking beadwork, the intricate stitchwork and the fine tuned plotline that get warm regards but are nothing compared to the kudos of the last minute creations.

I wonder what it is that turns people on?  Is it that fine handiwork is unfathomable to the untrained eye? Or is it an unadulterated appreciation for the simply crafted?  Maybe the last-minute panic leaves the craftperson to deal with just the creation of product: The critic inside is gagged and the muse is at the reins, shouting orders.

What we do know is that the “why” really doesn’t matter.  We are figuring out our own “how.” How to use that energy and harness it. Recreate that place where we just make and don’t think–without the panic, the sleepless night before and the stress. 

I’m thinking that maybe it’s the practice and toil of the finely crafted that let’s us churn out gorgeous things when there isn’t time to think.

Categories: business, lessons learned, process Tags:

A Nice Cemetery

December 13, 2009 1 comment

Sometimes, all it takes is a gravestone on a faraway hillside to get me going. I hopped on a bus in Villefranche, along France’s Cote d’Azur, with 1/3 the passengers on my cruise ship confident that I would find an art museum along the way.

As we rolled into the first stop in the outlying boundary of Nice, the entire bus panicked and swarmed off.  The next stop was two yards away from the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and I patted myself on the back as I disembarked.

Standing in the rooftop garden of the museum, I spied a hillside cemetery and decided I needed to find it. I managed to get myself on another bus trailing up the hillside to Cimiez, the posh area of Nice. It’s home to the Matisse Museum, the Archeological Museum housing Cemenelum (Roman ruins) and Cimiez Monastery.

The monastery sits serenely at the to of the hill, where visitors and locals can stroll the grounds and take in a quiet respite in the rose garden.

Cimiez Monastery
Surrounding the monastery is a seemingly small cemetery that extends several levels along the hillside.
Henri Matisse is buried here in an isolated but esteemed space. People leave poems, sketches and rocks atop his grave. I didn’t know that Matisse was buried in Nice. As he is one of my favorite artists, I was pleased to be able to pay my respects in person.
Grave of Henri Matisse
Rounding a corner, I came upon this monument that made me think of Lot’s wife and grief crystallized.  The cemetery had several grieving women thown across caskets but none as emotionally sincere as this one.
 
Grief marbleized
I only had my cell phone with me and it promptly died after half an hour in the cemetery. So I leave you with an inadequate feeling of the grandeur of this cemetery.

 Along the alleys of the necropolis
What I wasn’t able to capture are the glimpses of the hills caught between the mausoleums or the awe that forces you to sit on mysteriously well-spaced benches as you’re walking through the cemetery surrounded by white marble and unexpectedly find yourself in front of a sweeping vista of the breathtaking city.
I know I will be back.  It’s always the dead that welcome me back.
Categories: France, travel Tags: , , , , ,
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