ORNAMENT Volume 34 No. 3

Isabelle de Borchgrave. An Invitation to Dream
Smithsonian Craft Show 2011
Charles Pinckney. The Story as the Jewel
Zandra Rhodes. The Art of Significant Loveliness
Sally von Bargen. Contemporary Images as Jewels
Ken Loeber. Complexity to Simplicity
Roberto Capucci. Sculptor of Silk


The words “paper dress” typically call to mind the freespirited, disposable high-fashion-meets-art paper frocks of the 1960s. Usually short and mod in cut, they were often a subversive stab at the social mores of the times. But for Belgian painter Isabelle de Borchgrave, paper dresses are much more. They are a doorway to a world of whimsy and fantasy, an invitation to dream, a canvas upon which to blend the ageless beauty of the past with new imaginings.


Most craft shows have a section for emerging artists, but in recognition of the volume of craft artists out there, nearly half of this year’s one hundred twenty exhibitors for the Smithsonian Craft Show are new. Most still have five or more years of exhibiting experience. This certainly changes the show’s dynamic and feel. The most apparent difference is the utilization of alternative materials, and the novel approaches to the medium.


From the outside, Charles Norman Pinckney’s studio looks cold and formidable. It is housed in the Old Clarke County Jail, a historic late nineteenth-century stucco-covered building in Athens, Georgia, Pinckney’s hometown since 1985. Setting foot inside, though, visitors find a warmly lit room brought to life by Pinckney’s resonant voice, friendly laughter and generous spirit.


There are many wreaths of laurel that have rested on British designer Zandra Rhodes famously pink hair (which has also been colored blue). Her distinctive painted visage, laden by loads of big jewelry by her friend sculptor Andrew Logan, lends her a certain notoriety and celebrity, but the effect belies the determination, ambition and energy that is her heart and soul.


All of Sally von Bargen’s pieces, generally brooches and necklaces, are rich with suggestion. In the brooch Coming or Going a woman’s legs are shown from the knees down. She is sitting in a chair. The suitcase beside her hints that she is waiting for a bus or a train. Beneath is a cartoonish set of lips and teeth, lips partly open perhaps to yell or receive a kiss. The top of the tear-drop-shaped brooch divides into two amoeba-like forms that look a lot like the letter ‘Y,’ prompting the question: Why are you coming or going?


To call Roberto Capucci a “fashion designer” is to confine his work to a category from which he has sought, almost from the beginning, to escape. Just as the geometric forms of his dresses, especially since the groundbreaking linea a scatola, or “box line,” in 1958, have been designed to liberate clothing from “the tyranny of the body,” so Capucci has sought to liberate himself and his work from the demands of the fashion market, with its emphasis on mass production and commercial appeal.