5 Fast Facts: Colette Fu

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Colette Fu (b. 1965), whose work is on view in Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu through February 26, 2017.

Colette Fu (b. 1965)

1. Game Plan

When Fu began her career, she perused bookstores for inspiration. Fu says, “Originally, I wanted to make something like the game of Life but with photos.” Next to a shelf of games at one store, she noticed a stack of Robert Sabuda’s detailed pop-up books. The discovery inspired Fu to engineer her own sculptural books.

2. The Inside Story

Fu taught herself pop-up techniques by deconstructing children’s pop-up books. Later, artist-in-residence programs gave her the opportunity to develop projects. In 2008 the artist received a Fulbright Fellowship to create the pop-up series “We are Tiger Dragon People,” depicting ethnic minorities of China’s Yunnan Province.

3. Mix and Match

Fu combines her photography skills with the precise paper engineering. Fu often combines up to 20 photos in her scenes. Through her use of mixed media and sculptural engineering, Fu achieves a unique collection of works.

4. Large and in Charge

During her six-month artist residency in Shanghai, Fu created China’s largest single spread pop-up book, measuring 8.2 x 16.4 x 5.6 feet. The artwork explored ethnic minority groups of China as an extension of her “We are Tiger Dragon People” series.

Installation view of Colette Fu’s Academy of Music, Imaginary Audience, from the series “Haunted Philadelphia,” on view in Wanderer/Wonderer; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

5. Phantom of the Opera

Academy of Music, Imaginary Audience, from the series “Haunted Philadelphia,” depicts America’s oldest grand opera house and centers on the theater’s infamous phantom that reportedly pulls theatregoers’ hair and pinches them. Fu’s “imaginary audience” references concerns about being watched by others.

Stop by the museum to see Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fuon view in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery through February 26, 2017.

—Olivia Lussi was the fall 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Beyond the Fold: Colette Fu’s Pop-Ups

Did you know that early pop-up books were intended for adults and not children? The earliest examples of movable books illustrated scientific theories. It was not until the 18th century that these pop-up techniques were applied to books designed for entertainment.

Installation view of Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu; Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Installation view of  two of Colette Fu’s pop-ups in Wanderer/Wonderer; Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Colette Fu (b. 1965, New Jersey) is an American photographer and pop-up paper engineer whose work reflects ideas of identity and its relation to society. The special exhibition Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu, on view at NMWA through February 26, 2017, features ten pop-up books that explore Fu’s personal experiences through combined images of people, architecture, and nature.

Four works from Fu’s earlier series “Haunted Philadelphia” explore some of the spooky landmarks of the historic city. She ventured into “dark tourism” attractions, including Fort Mifflin and the Byberry Mental Hospital, which inspired her large-scale pop-up books.

Colette Fu, Rodin Museum: Lovers, from the series “Haunted Philadelphia,” 2005–06; Artist’s book with color prints, Chinese Joss paper, and Philadelphia newspapers, 53 x 36 x 22 in. (open); NMWA; Museum purchase with funds donated by Lynn Johnston and Julie Garcia

Colette Fu, Rodin Museum: Lovers, from the series “Haunted Philadelphia,” 2005–06; Artist’s book with color prints, Chinese Joss paper, and Philadelphia newspapers, 53 x 36 x 22 in. (open); NMWA; Museum purchase with funds donated by Lynn Johnston and Julie Garcia; © Colette Fu; Photo: Lee Stalsworth

One work from Fu’s “Haunted Philadelphia” series, Rodin Museum: Lovers, was inspired by the  story of two lovers who secretly met at the museum’s garden but were separated and died tragically. Associating the story with the unhappy love affair of Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin, Fu created pop-up versions of their sculptures in the museum’s garden.

Colette Fu, Yi Costume Festival, from the series “We are Tiger Dragon People,” 2008–14; Artist’s book with color prints, yarn, and Chinese brocade fabric, 32 x 31 x 9 in. (open); Courtesy of the artist

Colette Fu, Yi Costume Festival, from the series “We are Tiger Dragon People,” 2008–14; Artist’s book with color prints, yarn, and Chinese brocade fabric, 32 x 31 x 9 in. (open); © Colette Fu; Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Soon after graduating college, Fu traveled to China’s Yunnan Province where she reconnected with her family’s roots and found a sense of pride and identity that encouraged her to pursue her passion for photography and storytelling. Fu’s series “We are Tiger Dragon People” (2008-13) depicts the culture and traditions of Yunnan and other minority areas.

“As I grow older I start to understand the importance of preserving one’s identity and culture, and the significance of learning one’s roots,” says Fu. She traveled specifically to photograph ethnic minority groups as a way to preserve their identities and spread awareness of their existence. Tales passed on from experts and elders inspired Fu’s vivid representations. Her works share stories of folk festivals, ritual celebrations, and local cooking.

The pop-up Dai Food from the series “We are Tiger Dragon People” introduces viewers to the cooking of the Dai people, one of the ethnic minorities in the Yunnan province. Fu photographed a young Dai woman wearing a long skirt and bodice. She is shown with street-food specialties of the region such as grilled chicken, fish, pig tail, pork liver, and snails.

Fu blurs the line between the real and the imagined. Through her pop-up masterpieces, Fu says that she wants “eliminate boundaries between people, book, installation, photography, craft, and sculpture.”

Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu is on view in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery of the National Museum of Women in the Arts through February 26, 2017.

—Francisca Rudolph is the fall 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Popping Up with Colette Fu

Award-winning pop-up book artist Colette Fu was invited to speak at the 25th Anniversary Library Fellows Meeting (now renamed the Book Arts Fellows). Based in Philadelphia, Fu creates books that, when opened, unfold to reveal springing, stunning sculptural presentations of her photographs. The books on display at the meeting were part of the series We are Tiger Dragon People, based on photographs taken when she traveled through China’s south-western Yunnan province, where her mother was born.

The group purchased Stone Mountain for the museum’s collection.

Stone Mountain (The Song of our Ethics), Part of the We are Tiger Dragon People project, Purchased by the Book Arts Fellows as a gift to NMWA; Photograph: Laura Hoffman

Stone Mountain (The Song of our Ethics), Part of the We are Tiger Dragon People project, Purchased by the Book Arts Fellows as a gift to NMWA; Photograph: Laura Hoffman

Fu received an MFA in Fine Art Photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and has received many full-funded artist residency grants, including a Fulbright Research Fellowship to China. She taught herself pop-up techniques by deconstructing books that she found on Ebay ad in stores, and artist-in-residence programs gave her the opportunity to develop projects such as Balls: Sara City Workout Mania, Spaghetti: Skinner Macaroni Factory, and many others. Her skills with pop-up books are a testament to her talent, dedication, and patience.

Colette Fu showing her book Axi Fire Festival; Photograph: Laura Hoffman

Colette Fu showing her book Axi Fire Festival; Photograph: Laura Hoffman

In an interview, Fu stated, “My pop-ups are a way for me to speak, mediate, express, delight and inform. Constructing pop-ups allows me to combine intuitive design and technical acuity with my love of traveling as I try to understand the world around me.” Fu has also crafted commissioned pop-ups for General Electric, Vogue China, Canon Asia and Louis Vuitton. “With pop-up books I want to eliminate the boundaries between book, installation, photography, craft and sculpture.”

Find more photos of the meeting and Colette Fu’s work on the Library’s Flickr page and Fu’s website.

—Jennifer Page is the Library Assistant in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.