Arts + Culture

Critic’s Insight: Isabelle de Borchgrave’s ‘Pallas’

Our art critic gives her perspective on a current exhibit.

BY March 26, 2019
Pallas (2007, mixed media, 76 by 27 by 31 inches) by Isabelle de Borchgrave

Her materials may be lightweight, but Isabelle de Borchgrave brings a sense of grandeur to garments conjured from paper, paint and glue. She and her workshop assistants in Brussels are the maestros of a fragile material, shaping crumpled paper into stunning replicas of historic gowns, theatrical costumes and cunning accessories. On view at Artis—Naples through May 5, the exhibit Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper has visitors leaning in to wonder at the details of the paper frocks. One of the most intriguing pieces in the show is Pallas. De Borchgrave’s goddess figure is inspired by a Botticelli painting in Florence’s famed Uffizi Gallery called Pallas and the Centaur. Botticelli’s canvas shows Pallas Athena, the Greek avatar of wisdom, armed with a halberd as she subdues a centaur by grasping the hair on the top of his head. Among other things, the painting represents the triumph of rationality over beastly passions. Botticelli’s picture—painted circa 1482—is a statement of female power that resonates in our own fraught #MeToo moment. De Borchgrave’s paper garment captures the chilly beauty of Botticelli’s woman warrior. As in the painting, de Borchgrave’s figure wears a majestic green cloak and filmy white dress embellished with gold. Laurel leaves swirl around her body and form a crown symbolizing victory. De Borchgrave’s contemporary Pallas radiates an almost otherworldly calm, strength and dignity, telling a story that is about more than mere fashion.

Janice T. Paine is the education program manager at the United Arts Council of Collier County.

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