Exacting Art

Japanese-born artist Hiromi Moneyhun creates intricate pieces that entice viewers to touch


Sitting in front of the same piece of paper, making small cuts with an X-Acto Knife for weeks or months might not sound appealing. For Jacksonville Beach paper-cut artist Hiromi Moneyhun, however, the results are intricate and captivating.

Born and raised in Kyoto, Japan, Moneyhun moved to Jacksonville in 2004 with her American husband whom she met while he was teaching English in her home city. A full-time mom and wife, Moneyhun, who still has difficulty understanding and speaking English, said she creates her art "every minute during the day when I'm not doing everything else."

Papercutting is defined simply as the art of cutting paper designs. The oldest surviving paper cut is a symmetrical circle from the 6th-century Six Dynasties period found in Xinjiang, China.

Now, the art form is recognized in cultures around the world — from Indonesia and Israel to Mexico and the U.S. Well-known paper-cut artists include Joanna Koerten, Hans Christian Andersen, Lotte Reiniger, Jad Fair, Jeanette Kuvin Oren and Kara Walker.

In March, Moneyhun took part in "Cut Paint Draw: An Exhibition of Art with Hiromi Moneyhun, Sharla Valeski and Bruce Musser" at CoRK Arts District in Riverside. In April, she joined One Spark as entry No. 214 hosted by Southlight Gallery (she received 189 votes).

Her exhibit at Haskell Gallery's Connector Display Cases at Jacksonville International Airport (located before airport security) is on display through June 30.

"The mounting was kind of challenging," Moneyhun said. "My husband had a good idea to use an old surfboard to make marshmallow-looking Styrofoam pieces, put them on the column and then pin the paper-cut onto the Styrofoam so it looks like it's floating. You can see my art from the front, side and back — it looks like the image is on the glass itself."

Growing up in Kyoto, Moneyhun was always an artistic child. First drawing and then, in her teens, establishing her own paper-cut style.

"With no formal art training, Hiromi has developed a unique homegrown artistic voice that combines traditional Japanese visual art forms with the super-modernity now found in all of Japan's biggest cities," the artist's website says. "The most obvious reference is to Edo Period Japanese woodblock prints (moku hanga), which had a major influence on her budding artist's mind early on."

As with woodblock prints, Moneyhun's three-dimensional paper-cut creations require a multistep process.

"First, I draw the image using black pen," she explained. "I usually make a copy of the finished image and then cut the copied paper. I use drawing paper — nothing special — and cut out with an X-Acto Knife. That's it. It's a simple process."

Moneyhun's small pieces, about 5 inches by 7 inches, take roughly a week. Larger pieces — sometimes bigger than 60 inches by 30 inches — can take upwards of a month or longer. If she messes up significantly, the piece goes in the garbage.

"A tiny mistake, and I can keep going," Moneyhun said. "Only one piece has ever gone into the trash can."

Blessed with hands as steady as a surgeon's, Moneyhun plies her craft, which continues to garner attention around Northeast Florida. The artist has an upcoming exhibit — her first solo show — in October at FSCJ's Kent Gallery, for which she will be creating a whole new body of work.

"I am creating two new series," Moneyhun said. "This show will be on a much bigger scale. One series is paper-cut images of my 9-year-old daughter, Nia, and the other is about traditional Japanese images. I might just use one series for the show, but I'm not sure which one."

Wildlife, like a rhinoceros and giraffe, family portraits and a retro TV series are a few of the paper cuts Moneyhun's completed in the past. Her JIA creations are amazingly intricate figures — black cutouts greeting thousands of travelers daily. The work is comparable to an elaborate doily, and it's hard not to want to reach out and graze your hand across the glass.

"I'm really lucky to be able to do what I love," Moneyhun said. "I will continue to work on my craft and show my work anywhere I can." 

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