Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu

Colette Fu (b. 1969) creates intricate, large-scale pop-up books that depict myths and legends and illuminate little-known cultures. This exhibition presents works from her series “Haunted Philadelphia” and “We are Tiger Dragon People.”

Colette Fu, Dai Food, from “We are Tiger Dragon People,” 2008–13; Ultrachrome pigment ink, Epson Enhanced Matte paper mounted onto Cougar 60 lb. smooth cover paper, black iris cloth, 17 x 25 x 10.5 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Purchased with the annual contributions of NMWA Book Arts Fellows; © Colette Fu; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Colette Fu began producing books about Philadelphia earlier in her creative life, when she experienced uncertainty and anxiety about her future as an artist. These feelings contributed to her interest in purportedly haunted landmarks around her hometown, which she interpreted into the pop-up book format.

Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu Installation

The series “We are Tiger Dragon People,” Fu’s visual interpretation of minority cultures in China’s Yunnan Province, represents the artist’s personal exploration of her ancestry and impassioned study of cultural expression in this land known as “the other side of the clouds.”

Fu made many trips to southwestern China, traveling with just a backpack and her camera through fifty remote Yunnan villages. She attended and photographed religious ceremonies, festivals, and family rituals and assembled her images into sculptural books.

Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu Installation

Fu’s dynamic pop-ups express the power of myths, folktales, and traditional cultures. Her art embodies a verse by Jidi Majia, a poet who belongs to the same Yi ethnic minority as Fu’s family:

I think back, not to dwell on sad losses
Just being human I am drawn
To relive all beautiful bygone things

Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu Installation

Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu Installation

Fu found inspiration for this book in the tragic story of young lovers who met secretly in the garden of Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum. After the young woman’s family sent her away to try to break up the romance, she returned home to discover that her beau had been killed in the Vietnam War. Devastated, she went alone to the museum, found it locked, and was killed by a car as she dashed across the busy Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Fu associated this story with the unhappy love affair between French sculptor Camille Claudel (1864–1943) and Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), her mentor. She created pop-up versions of Rodin’s and Claudel’s sculptures in the museum’s garden. An atmosphere of dark foreboding permeates this book—a stage on which human dramas unfold

Large-scale pop-up book with Auguste Rodin's and Camille Claudel's sculptures in a deconstructed classical building. Sculptures populate a mass of greenery that overtakes the building, bordered by crumbling columns. Scattered petals of color match the collaged newspaper base.

Colette Fu, Rodin Museum (from Haunted Philadelphia), 2005-2006; Ultrachrome Pigment Ink, Epson Enhanced Matte mounted onto Cougar 60 lb smooth cover, glue, Chinese Joss paper, Philadelphia newspapers; 53 x 36 x 21 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Purchased with funds provided by Lynn Johnston and Julie Garcia; © Colette Fu; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

In this book, Fu introduces viewers to the cooking of the Dai people of southwestern China. She suggests the cuisine’s sour, spicy, salty, and sweet flavors by densely interweaving her photographs, which emphasize varying colors, textures, and shapes. A young Dai woman with flowers in her hair appears to prepare a feast of regional specialty dishes, including grilled chicken and fish, various kebabs, pig’s tail, fermented eggs, beef with red pepper, snails, pork liver, and spicy noodle salad.

Large-scale pop-up book with a light-skinned woman behind a huge display of food. She wears a green dress and purple flowers in her dark hair and turns to look over her left shoulder. The food explodes forward with bowls of soup, skewered meat, banana leaves, pig tail and more.

Colette Fu, Dai Food, from “We are Tiger Dragon People,” 2008–13; Ultrachrome pigment ink, Epson Enhanced Matte paper mounted onto Cougar 60 lb. smooth cover paper, black iris cloth, 17 x 25 x 10.5 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Purchased with the annual contributions of NMWA Book Arts Fellows; © Colette Fu; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Here, Fu depicts the Stone Forest in eastern Yunnan Province; these distinctive limestone formations resemble weathered tree trunks. Calligraphy by Fu’s great grandfather, Lung Yun, who was governor of the Yunnan Province until 1945, is carved in red characters above the entrance to the forest.

This work also references the legend of Ashima, a young woman engaged to be married to her cousin. In a jealous rage, another suitor drowns her, and Ashima turns to stone and is immortalized in the Stone Forest landscape. Fu hand-embroidered the base of this book to pay tribute to the Sani people who inhabit the area and are renowned for their exquisite needlework.

Large-scale pop-up book with a group of limestone formations resembling weathered tree trunks sits on top of a hand-embroidered base of colorful geometric patterns that repeat in abstract shapes over the center of the piece. A crescent moon and single star peek from behind.

Colette Fu, Ashima, from “We are Tiger Dragon People,” 2008-2014; Ultrachrome Pigment Ink, Epson Enhanced Matte mounted onto Cougar 60 lb smooth cover, Black iris cloth, embroidered Tyvek; 17 x 25 x 10 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Purchased from the funds provided by Margaret Johnston, Krystyna Wasserman and Elizabeth Welles; © Colette Fu; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Credits

Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu was presented October 14, 2016–February 26, 2017 in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC.

This exhibition was organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts and generously supported by the Clara M. Lovett Emerging Artists Fund, with additional funding provided by the Judith A. Finkelstein Exhibition Fund and the members of NMWA.

Artworks © Colette Fu
Photographs by Lee Stalsworth

Selected Works courtesy National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Rodin Museum purchased with funds provided by Lynn Johnston and Julie Garcia.
Dai Food purchased with the annual contributions of NMWA Book Arts Fellows.
Ashima, Stone Mountain purchased with funds provided by Margaret Johnston, Krystyna Wasserman, and Elizabeth Welles.

Large-scale pop-up book with a light-skinned woman behind a huge display of food. She wears a green dress and purple flowers in her dark hair and turns to look over her left shoulder. The food explodes forward with bowls of soup, skewered meat, banana leaves, pig tail and more.

Colette Fu, Dai Food, from “We are Tiger Dragon People,” 2008–13; Ultrachrome pigment ink, Epson Enhanced Matte paper mounted onto Cougar 60 lb. smooth cover paper, black iris cloth, 17 x 25 x 10.5 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Purchased with the annual contributions of NMWA Book Arts Fellows; © Colette Fu; Photo by Lee Stalsworth