Japanese papercut (kirie) artist Hiromi Moneyhun recently spent three weeks living and working in Erie, Pennsylvania. Hiromi’s stay was part of a visiting artist residency program launched by Erie Arts & Culture in early 2020, in collaboration with Long Road Projects.
Through this program, Erie Arts & Culture and Long Road Projects provide contemporary artists with dedicated time and space to reflect, research, and create new bodies of work – outside of their usual environments. This program also creates opportunities for new perspectives and creative processes to be shared, which in turn positively impacts the cultural and creative landscape in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Hiromi’s residency started on August 17 and extended to September 10.
An accomplished papercut artist, Hiromi was interested in using her residency to explore new mediums and disciplines, including printmaking, papermaking, ceramics, and public art.
Hiromi is a self-taught artist. It wasn't until after Hiromi relocated to the United States that she began exploring the world of paper-cuts. Upon moving to Jacksonville, Hiromi’s mother-in-law suffered a stroke, which resulted in Hiromi taking on the role of caregiver. With more time being spent at home, Hiromi rekindled her passion for creative processes as a means of investing in herself.
At first, Hiromi's exploration into the world of Kirie was a hobby. Her interest was sparked by children's books that were illustrated using paper-cuts and woodblock prints. Making use of an X-ACTO knife, Hiromi created paper-cuts using whatever paper she found lying around the house. While her process has remained the same, Hiromi's designs have become larger in their scale and more intricate in their detail.
During her residency, Hiromi is interested in building upon her process and exploring ceramics, printmaking, and papermaking. She will be creating new works while in Erie and also working on creating an edition, which will be available for sale.
Erie Arts & Culture’s visiting artist residency program is a collaboration with Long Road Projects. Funding for the program was provided through a special grant from the Erie Community Foundation. Previous visiting artists in residence include Stephon Senegal (New York City) and Kate Sikorski (Los Angeles). Shannon Norwood (Savannah) is slated to conduct a residency in October.
Grounded Print + Paper Shop served as a studio for Hiromi during her residency. On her first day in Erie, Hiromi met with Ashley Pastore, the proprietor of Grounded. Ashley briefly explained the art of paper making to Hiromi, as well as the materials and processes that can be experimented with.
Hiromi also visited Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where she met with master printer Bill Mathie and Doug Eberhardt. Plans were made for Hiromi to work with EUP’s printmaking department and Egress Press & Research to create and publish a photolithography edition. When creating the edition, Hiromi would work directly with undergraduate and graduate students at EUP. Hiromi has translated her work to digital prints and serigraphs, but photolithography was a completely new printmaking process for her.
Also during week one, Hiromi spent time at the home and studio of Susan and Steven Kemenyffy. The Kemenyffys have been prominent artists in Pennsylvania since the 1970s and their work has taken them around the nation and world. Susan provided Hiromi with her insights on how to sustain a career as an artist and elaborated on her processes and series of work from over the decades.
Hiromi started her second week by visiting with Mel El-Farouki, the Studio Coordinator at Erie ClaySpace. During that meeting, a second visit was scheduled for Hiromi to meet with members of the studio to discuss ways that her sculptural work can be translated to clay.
One of the areas that Hiromi explored while in residence was how she can translate her work to the field of public art. She purchased two different types of Tyvek to test her ability to apply her reductive process to a medium other than paper. Tyvek is more durable than paper and Hiromi thought that it may be a good material to create temporary public art with.
To further explore the field of public art, Hiromi met with Dave and Ben Davis of Gene Davis Sales and Service. What Hiromi does with a blade and paper, Gene Davis does with a water jet and steel. Many large scale public art projects require an artist to work with a fabrication team and Hiromi doesn’t have access to this type of service in Jacksonville. By building a relationship with Gene Davis, Hiromi can now review and apply for public art opportunities throughout the nation.
Erie Arts & Culture’s CHROMA Guild meets twice a month, one to advance strategic agendas and the other to network and build relationships between members of CHROMA. Hiromi attended a networking meeting for the guild, which was held in Erie’s West Bayfront. Peruvian woodcarver Fredy Huamán Mallqui led a small group of CHROMA members on a tour of several vacant lots in the West Bayfront footprint. Fredy and Alex Anthes are paired together in a Erie Arts & Culture placemaking program called Creating with Community, and through that program they are working with community members to transform the vacant lots into creative community assets.
At the end of week two, Hiromi visited the home of David Bennett and Donna Douglass. Like Hiromi, David is an artist who creates through a reductive process and he has accomplished a lot in his lifetime. A graduate of EUP, David is a master woodcarver, boat builder, and a very talented painter. In the 1970s, David learned about the art bonsai. Practicing for more than 40 years, he is an exceptionally talented bonsai artist. After retiring as a woodcarver, David went back to school to learn ceramics, with a focus on creating pots for his bonsai trees. David is also the founder of Flexcut Tools, though he no longer owns the company.
During her third week in residency, Hiromi met with the team at F3 Metalworx to test the limits of the manufacturing company’s Virtek scanner. The device uses a laser to scan an object to create a CAD file. Unfortunately, the 15 year old scanner simply couldn’t pick up all the fine detail in Hiromi’s work. However, after learning about the challenges faced when scanning Hiromi’s work, Virtek Vision International reached out to Erie Arts & Culture directly to troubleshoot the issue, going so far as requesting that a sample of Hiromi’s work be mailed to them in Canada so that they can test some of their in-house equipment using her papercuts.
Hiromi continued to work with Ashley at Grounded to experiment with paper making. Hiromi chose to focus on making paper using abaca pulp. Abaca is the Philippine word for Manila hemp, the fiber that comes from the stalk of a special type of banana tree. It dyes semi-translucent and Hiromi experimented with layering papercut slivers, a byproduct of her creative process, into the abaca.
Hiromi was back at EUP in week three to work with faculty and students in the printmaking department. Through Egress Print, Hiromi developed a four-plate photolithography print. Photolithography is the process of transferring geometric shapes on a mask to the surface of a silicon wafer. Tests were run to determine the right exposure levels for the two base layers.
Hiromi also met members of Erie ClaySpace. The ceramicists gave Hiromi some direction and insights on how her work could be translated to clay. Kimberlyn Bloise demonstrated to Hiromi the capabilities of paper clay and how it can be used to create sculptural work.
Winding down week three, Hiromi taught a paper cutting workshop to a small group of five students at the Inner City Neighborhood Arthouse. Students selected traditional Japanese designs and had the option to further customize them by adding additional lines or shapes. Their work was then inserted into clear ornaments as a method of display. WQLN Public Media, Erie’s NPR/PBS affiliate station, filmed the workshop and interviewed Hiromi after for a local segment.
During the weekend of week three, Hiromi toured around Presque Isle State Park. She was captivated by the trees covered in webs made by webworms, which will metamorph into moths. Metamorphosis has played a central role in Hiromi’s work over the years. Her trip to Presque Isle inspired several experimental sculptural pieces.
At the start of week four, Hiromi visited with Nialwak and Ashol, two Sudanese henna artists who participate in Erie Arts & Culture’s Folk and Traditional Arts program. Similarities were drawn between Hiromi’s papercuts and traditional Sudanese henna designs and beadwork. Ashol, who is a senior at Mercyhurst University, is pursuing a degree in international studies. She’s also interested in contextualizing henna through a contemporary lens so she had some great questions for Hiromi about how she developed her own style when pursuing a traditional Japanese art form.
Hiromi made one last visit to EUP to run proofs of her photolithography print. She selected all the colors for the print and ran plates to check the colors against each other. With the colors approved, students and faculty of EUP’s print department will stay in contact with Hiromi as they finalize the print for publishing as an edition. Once finished, the print will be available for sale through Hiromi as well as on Egress Print’s website.