PARTICIPATORY SPORT FOR CRAFT ARTISTS
After receiving her MFA in Fine Art Photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2003, Philadelphia-based visual artist Colette Fu delved into the world of pop-up art and taught herself how to create pop-up pieces after initially deconstructing a few works that she bought off of eBay. She has since then designed pop-ups for award-winning stop-motion animation commercials and has freelanced for clients such as Vogue China, Canon Asia and Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton. Her work is also included in the Library of Congress, the West Collection and many private archive collections. In order to share her love of the art and express how this particular medium is an effective way to share stories, Fu also teaches pop-up courses and community workshops to marginalized communities at various international art centers, universities, and institutions.
In 2008, Fu received a Fulbright Fellowship to travel to China's Yunnan Province and photograph the 25 ethnic minorities of her mother's hometown. That journey culminated in her latest pop-up book, We Are Tiger Dragon People, which reflects the community's rich local histories, traditions, and tastes in colorful and vibrant collages. These books may be purchased directly from Fu or through the Brooklyn Artist Alliance. Two of her books will be on display at Booklyn's LA Book Fair from January 31 to February 2.
We caught up with the artist to learn more about both the personal and professional experiences that went into this project.
The Axi, one of the 27 branches of Yi celebrate the Axi Fire Festival to honor Mu Deng, the man who brought them fire. Legend has it that once when the naked Axi were hunting, heavy rains came down, sending them to shelter under an old tree. An old wizard, Mu Deng, appeared, rubbed some dry wood together and started a fire. The Axi were no longer cold and learned how to cook food.
These books are colorful, vibrant and dynamic. Where does your inspiration come from?
The ethnic minority tribes are much more colorful, vibrant and dynamic than my books. I first went to China in 1994 to teach English at Yunnan Nationalities University in Yunnan’s capital, Kunming. I had just graduated with a French degree and had no motivation to start a career with it. I was a sensitive, shy, but creative child and grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey not proud of my Chinese heritage. In Yunnan I discovered that my great-grandfather was a member of the powerful black Yi tribe, and governor and general of Yunnan during the transitional years of WWII.
I stayed in Yunnan for three years; it was these experiences that helped me find a new sense of pride and identity and encouraged me to pursue a profession as an artist. There sparked a new sense of identity, pride and acceptance, and since leaving Yunnan in 1997, I wanted to return and make a project of the colorful lives of the people there. I hope that my books can act as a bridge to present diversity as strength instead of difference as weakness. Recognition and celebration of diversity in others and ourselves leads us to stronger identity and involvement with the world.
Buyi Multicolored Rice
Water wheels carry water from the Duoyi River to the rice fields of the Buyi. During celebrations, the Buyi steam glutionous rice dyed from colorful plants around them, and serve it in banana leaves with honey or cane sugar.
How are these 360-degree portraits an effective medium for representing the people and traditions that you encounter? How do they, as you say on your website, help you understand the world around you?
Visual storytelling, especially in pop-up form, sparks a curiosity to make, share, and read a story and turns it into something a lot more intriguing. Papercutting in China was an inexpensive way to decorate homes with auspicious symbols. Movable books in the Eastern world were originally used to illustrate ideas about astronomy, fortune telling, navigation, anatomy of the body and other scientific principles. This history prompted me to construct my own pop-up books reflecting ideas about how we relate to society today. With the generous support of artist residency programs, I am able to travel around the world to make my art and share stories.
Only about 4600 Dulong people reside near the Dulong River in NW Yunnan, along the borders of Tibet and Burma. Using bamboo needles and ink made out of ashes from the bottoms of pans, girls got their tattoos at puberty and each clan had its own set of designs. The origin is not clear, but some claim it was to make them unattractive to powerful neighboring tribes (Tibetans to the North, and Lisu to the east) who enslaved the Dulong and went after their women. Dulong woman believe that their tattoos resemble butterflies because the souls of the dead were said to turn into butterflies. As of 2009, there were only 40 tattooed Dulong women left.
Continue reading this interview on asiasociety.com