Fu’s ‘Tiger Dragon People’ is Jaw-Dropping

Colette Fu with a detail from one of her pop-up books.

Miss Fu tells her story to a large crowd.

Colette Fu’s “We Are Tiger Dragon People” opened with a bang at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke last night. Colette is an internationally acclaimed pop-up artist, but in Roanoke, she’s Pearl’s daughter and that was evident with the nearly overflow crowd that showed up to greet her and appreciate her work.

Pearl Fu, of course, is Roanoke’s premier international ambassador and for 25 years led the Local Colors festival, Roanoke’s very best celebration of anything. It is a recognition of the importance of our international community and has had as many as 120 international cultures–all of whom live in the Roanoke Valley–represented.

Mom and daughter inside a giant pop-up, which was unveiled last night.

Colette is, however, very much her own accomplished woman. She is an inveterate student and teacher, facing huge challenges in becoming the foremost practitioner in her field of art. She began with a French degree, which she found to be nearly useless, and then discovered photography and eventually pop-up art.

Miss Fu talking about living in China for three years.

The Taubman’s explanation of her work goes thusly: “Sparked by curiosity and the desire to explore her roots, artist Colette Fu began traveling to China’s Yunnan Province where 25 of the nation’s 55 minority tribes live. While there, she was able to experience and document the customs of many groups, including the Black Nuosu Yi tribe of which her mother … is a member. The artist’s long immersion in the unique cultures of Yunnan culminated in a spectacular collection of intricate pop-up books and photo collages called We Are Tiger Dragon People.

“This exhibition not only follows Fu’s work in China, but also showcases earlier artworks inspired by unique destinations around the United Sates, demonstrating Fu’s process from photography to meticulously composed collages brought to life through lightboxes and three dimensional structures.

It took several people to open the big book.

Fu’s centerpiece of the exhibition is the world’s largest pop-up book titled Tao Hua Yuan Ji, which measures 13.8 by 21 feet when open. This massive paper structure, inspired by a Jin Dynasty poem about a secret utopian valley, depicts a cave ensconced in giant peach blossoms that Fu visited in 2008. Standing nearly 5-feet tall at its apex, the paper cave is large enough to crawl inside.”

She unveiled a large book to open the show to the delight of the crowd, which promptly crawled inside and had photos taken. The books, scattered over a large display area, were as long as 15 feet and as small as a coffee-table book, but each was eyebrow-raising in its detail and creativity.

This is a display that is well worth your time.

Colette Fu and another worker open the big book.

The artwork begins to emerge as cellphone cameras click away.

The ooo-ing and aah-ing are in full swing as the pop-up pops up.

Colette surveys her work.

Colette inside the pop-up.

This is the table-sized version of the big work.

This work is about 23 feet long and covers most of one side of the exhibit room.

Colette learned how to make the work at the bottom of this piece because she wanted a more tactile experience for the viewer. Her grandfather is responsible for the engraving at a real rock site in China.

The large crowd was duly impressed.

My friend Susan shot this of me in near-darkness at Colette’s talk in the auditorium. Her camera moved and I like the result.

Susan’s shot of me shooting Colette (my photo is at the top of this post).

And finally, Susan’s shot of me shooting more pop-ups.

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