Madhu Bazaz Wangu | Why I Love Pittsburgh: Reason #4: The Museums
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Why I Love Pittsburgh: Reason #4: The Museums

Why I Love Pittsburgh: Reason #4: The Museums

Transforming Ideas into Physical Designs
Once a year, if not more, an outstanding exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Arts or Andy Warhol Museum or Carnegie Science Museum affects me intellectually and emotionally, tugs at my heartstrings.

Last Sunday such one show mesmerized me by its innovative, transformative and meticulous artworks. The 45 pieces were haute couture garments designed by Iris van Herpen, 32, who blurs the worlds of fashion design, art and science. She has transformed creative ideas into physical replicas using technology and collaborating with scientists and architects. The result is outrageously elegant garments some of which demonstrate beauty, energy and movement, not normally associated with clothing.

For the residents of the Steel City, Refinery Smoke (2008) is of special interest. These three dresses billow and defy gravity. They are made with steel mesh that appears as light as air. Van Herpen shows the beauty and toxicity of industrial smoke. Although toxic and tragic they are visually compelling.

Early in her career van Herpen wanted to recreate water crashing around a human body—A frozen splash in space. After trying different technological processes and materials she discovered polyethylene terephthalate, material used for recyclable bottles. When she heated a sheet of the pliable material it morphed into her hands resulting in the frozen splash, The Water Dress.

Herpen changes mundane objects into works of art such as the dress, Chemical Crows (2008), that is made from golden tins of children’s umbrellas and stitched together by hand.

A work of collaboration, Voltage (January 2013) demonstrates the elusive nature of energy. A robe-like coat from magnetic motion explores the idea that movement is everywhere. Made of hundreds of tiny laser-cut acrylic elements that hover around the body when in motion creates a kind of rolling effect throughout.

Through ultra-meticulous handiwork and non-traditional technology, the designer also uses materials such as goat leather, pearls, magnets, crystals, metal mesh, coated metal, glass, bird skulls, tulle, cotton and polymer. The way she handles each material expresses her dedication and attention to detail that goes into making a work of art.

Van Herpen’s garments create a visual effect that is emotionally exciting and intellectually gratifying. To see fashion design out of its comfort zone, visit Carnegie Museum of Art before May 1.

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Iris van Herpen

Iris van Herpen

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