University of Iowa

UI student Catherine Liu awarded Fulbright Arts grant to China

April 1st, 2019
student in art room

Catherine Liu, who will receive an MFA in book arts from the University of Iowa this May, is the winner of a Fulbright Arts grant in Design/Bookmaking to China for 2019-20

Catherine Liu

Hometown: Tallahassee, FL
Award: 2019-20 Fulbright Arts grant in Design/Bookmaking to China
Degree: MFA book arts

Could you give me a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright? 

With my Fulbright, I will go to paper mills and the Jinling Scriptural Press in Nanjing, China, to study the processes of creating different types of handmade paper and understand their application in handprinted books. I am interested in both the technical aspects of these processes as well as the relationships and meaning the materials hold, as the primary use of Chinese book-related crafts is in Buddhist scriptures. During the 10-month period, I will be hosted by Nanjing University, where I will primarily work with Zhiqiang Zhang, a professor of the publishing science department. At the university, I will study Chinese book history and use the art facilities to learn how to adapt highly specialized craft skills in an academic environment. 

 What drew you to this field of study?

In my field, book arts, we use books as the primary form to create art, utilizing skills such as bookbinding, paper making, letterpress printing, and calligraphy. I am primarily interested in creating narratives through the symbolism and meaning of materials and processes. There is a rich tradition of book-related crafts in China, and as someone with Chinese heritage who grew up in the United States, I am interested in creating a dialogue between these two worlds with my work.

How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?

My career goal is to be a practicing artist that also teaches at the university level. I have a deep interest in experimentation, discovery, and finding ways to blend seemingly disparate techniques. The Fulbright will help me incorporate and normalize the use of Chinese craft techniques together with my current skill set in my personal art and curriculum. 

What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright? or What experiences at the UI inspired you to pursue a Fulbright?

Applying for the Fulbright is a laborious process on several fronts and there were moments where I felt stuck due to the fear of failure. What ultimately got me through was putting myself in a mindset that, regardless of the outcome, I would have a reservoir of materials and skills that I could use to apply for other opportunities in the future. For me, focusing on personal growth and sincerity helped me create an application I could really believe in and embody.

Are there individuals (professors, mentors, etc.) you'd like to thank for their investment in this process? 

I'd like to thank my primary contact and advisor at Nanjing University, Zhiqiang Zhang, and I'd like to thank my recommenders: Timothy Barrett, Sara Langworthy, and Julie Leonard. All of these people provided a massive amount of support and advice during the application process.

Explore the many funding opportunities open to UI students and alumni

Students are encouraged to begin their funding searches and applications at least six months to one year in advance.  Schedule an advising appointment with Karen Wachsmuth to discuss your interest in an international fellowship or begin an application (as a UI undergraduate student, graduate student, or alumna/us).

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