Photo caption: Exhibit specialist Jessica Rubenacker stands in front of “Memory Windows I & II”  by Bovey Lee, now on display in the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific Experience’s “Paper Unbound” exhibit through July 14, 2013.

Currently on display in the George Tsutakawa Art Gallery at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience through July 14, 2013, “Paper Unbound: Horiuchi and Beyond” brings together the work of Pacific Northwest artist Paul Horiuchi, alongside seven contemporary paper artists. Curated by Jessica Rubenacker, exhibit specialist for The Wing, the exhibition features paper-based work from Bovey Lee, Taiko Suzuki, Choon Hyang Yun and Jeong Han Yun, as well as new work from a few other Seattle-area artists: Romson Regarde Bustillo, Etsuko Ichikawa and Yuri Kinoshita.

The Tsutakawa Gallery highlights emerging Asian Pacific American curators and artists and is a curated space, unlike The Wing’s other galleries.

“For almost all of our galleries, we develop our exhibits through a community-based process, working with community members who are experts in a given exhibit topic,” says Rubenacker.  “Our exhibits staff works with these community members to brainstorm and prioritize main messages and themes, develop a storyline and think about the design and look of the space.”

The George Tsutakawa Art Gallery Committee conceived of the idea to highlight acclaimed Northwest artist Paul Horiuchi and left the idea open to including contemporary paper artists. The museum invited Rubenacker to curate, and she enthusiastically accepted.

Etsuko Ichikawa’s “Study of Sanskrit - forty-nine letters of the Devanagari alphabet.” Photo credit: Kp-Studios.
Etsuko Ichikawa’s “Study of Sanskrit – forty-nine letters of the Devanagari alphabet.” Photo credit: Kp-Studios.

“We consulted with Barbara Johns, who curated the Paul Horiuchi restrospective at the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner in 2008, regarding which works to include, highlighting some of his best collage work,” says Rubenacker.

Johns put Rubenacker in touch with private collectors of Horiuchi’s work and connected her with the Horiuchi family who loaned some of Paul Horiuchi’s art supplies that are on display in the exhibition.

Bringing her own curatorial vision to the show, Rubenacker wanted to look at artists working with the medium of paper in ways that could demonstrate the material’s versatility. The exhibition features delicate mandala-like paper cuttings from Bovey Lee and a colorful, wall-sized handmade-paper installation by Choon Hyang Yun and Jeong Han Yun. Four local Seattle-based artists also contributed work to Paper Unbound.

“Each of the artists was working on new pieces and excited to include new work,” says Rubenacker.

Yuri Kinoshita developed the site-specific “Roji” piece for a narrow interior hall that connects the two main galleries. Her paper “light tunnel” evokes a gently arcing bower of trees. Etsuko Ichikawa contributes an installation of aquagraphs – stacks of bound paper that are sanded into round organic shapes and then drawn on with candle soot and water droplets. Ichikawa’s installation is enhanced by a video piece documenting the artist’s process of drawing using molten glass. Romson Regarde Bustillo departs from his colorful prints to create larger-scale black-and-white collograph prints – collaging found materials onto the plate and printing. Taiko Suzuki’s new work layers her papermaking and printmaking in a new way, incorporating her “paper threads” for added texture.

Rubenacker attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) where she earned a double degree in painting and art history.

“During my senior year, I realized I didn’t have the drive to be a studio artist, so I started thinking about other career paths,” says Rubenacker.

She discovered an internship program between UIUC and The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and decided to stay in school an extra semester to intern in the curatorial and preparatory departments at The Phillips. Based on that experience, she applied to the museology graduate program at the University of Washington (UW).

“I recall when I first visited the Wing Luke Museum, the exhibit ‘How the Soy Sauce Was Bottled’ was on display, highlighting the work of Asian American artists,” recalls Rubenacker. “I felt at home at The Wing and was thankful to see so many stories, like mine, highlighted, and knew immediately that I wanted to be involved with the museum in some capacity.”

Yuri Kinoshita’s site-specific installation “Roji” at The Wing. Photo courtesy of JungleCity.com.
Yuri Kinoshita’s site-specific installation “Roji” at The Wing. Photo courtesy of JungleCity.com.

During Rubenacker’s first quarter at UW, she met Bob Fisher, The Wing’s collections manager. When Fisher mentioned that The Wing was moving to a new location, Rubenacker offered her assistance packing the museum’s collection. Her volunteer work quickly developed into an internship. Eventually, Rubenacker returned to the museum to work part-time in Visitor Services while finishing her thesis. She was promoted to visitor services manager and eventually switched departments. She has worked as a member of the four-person exhibition team at the museum since 2011.

Since moving to Seattle, Rubenacker has been involved with the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community, volunteering for a time as the visual art coordinator for Kultura Arts.

“With such a strong and vibrant API artist community, I feel like there is support and networking for API artists perhaps not available in other cities,” says Rubenacker. “Galleries and artist collectives that support API artists, such as ArtXchange and IDEA Odyssey, help provide that added support.”

Rubenacker has contributed to designing a number of shows at The Wing, including “Schooled!,” “From Fields to Family: Asian Pacific Americans and Food,” “I Am Filipino,” “Inside/Out: APA Girls and Suicide” and “Unfolding the Art of Paper.” She is currently working with community members to develop an exhibition on Asian Americans and pop culture that is set to open in September 2013.

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