In the current exhibition, Without Borders, at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, books come out of their bindings to become more than just text on pages. Nearly a dozen book artists present their aesthetic conceptualizations of the book, and photographer and pop-up book artist Colette Crazy will present three projects as part of the exhibition.
Fu’s participation in Without Borders took two years to prepare. “Catherine Alice Michaelis, curator of the Cynthia Sears collection, reached out to me in 2020,” Fu recounted, “soon after presenting virtually at the Bibliographical Society of America with members of my Book/Print Artist/Scholar collective of Color Collective, a collective founded by book artist and printmaker Tia Blassingame in 2019.”
The three pieces that Fu will share are titled Kaifuna, Yi Costume Festival, and Wa Hair Swinging Dance. “These three works were chosen by Cynthia and Catherine and focus on women from different ethnic minority groups in Yunnan Province, China, the Dulong, Yi and Wa,” Fu said. “My mother is from a branch of Yi, Nuosu Yi.”
Fu’s path to a career in the visual arts was sidetracked, with her early college education focusing on French and Chinese. “I wasn’t interested in going to college,” she said, “I didn’t want to be there, but I didn’t know where to go or where to go.”
She had studied French in high school. “My aunt and uncle spoke French to each other, and I always liked the way it sounded,” she said, “so in a way it was the easiest thing to study and get his diploma.”
But after teaching English in China, she came to understand her heritage, as well as China’s other ethnic minorities, and that led to photography and, ultimately, pop-up books. “The first pop-up book I remember seeing was when I was 33,” she recalls. “I had just received my MFA and was in the bookstore looking for inspiration in the toy book section.”
This coincidence opened a new chapter for Fu. “There was a whole section dedicated to pop-up books,” she said. “I opened Robert Sabuda’s shop Wizard of Oz and I was immediately enamored and eager to try using my own photographs in a similar format.
Fu sees connections between his previous language studies and his current endeavors. “Pop-up paper engineering is another more visual spatial language,” she said. “You learn the elements and complete a contextual sentence, a paragraph, and then a book.”
The life of a photographer brought Fu to face the challenges of frequent travel. “Learning French has made it easier to learn or understand other languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese, and comfort with these languages has brought me to artist residencies in Brazil, Mexico, Montreal, in Belgium, in Morocco,” she said. “Travelling for many years to attend artist residencies with all my belongings has helped prepare me a bit for the unexpected.
These trips included two visits to Washington State. “Once in my twenties, I accompanied a delegation from the city of Lijiang, China to explore Seattle, and another time to teach a class on ephemeral structures to the Puget Sound Book Arts community,” recalls- she. “As travel becomes safer, I would love to come back, visit Bainbridge Island and also explore Vancouver.”
Fu enjoys serving as an educator, striving to reach marginalized populations. “I’ve taught on pop-up structures all over the world, from IDP camps and retirement homes to universities,” she said. “I find it necessary to work with the community between two more personal projects.”
His presentations are tailored to his audience. “With the students, I focus on the technical aspects and share the different ways I have supported my work over the years, through artist residencies, grants, community projects,” he said. she declared. “With other groups, I focus on teaching them to do something to feel a sense of admiration, or to feel proud, to have fun, and how to share a story.”
A big part of Fu’s own story is gratitude. “I have so many people to thank for supporting me thus far,” she said. “I’m grateful to be able to do something that I’m passionate about in life, that I can’t wait to go to work.”
Boundless runs from March 4 to June 22 at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, 550 Winslow Way East, Bainbridge Island.