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Artist’s work worth more than the paper it’s on

Rico art exhibit_C. Gilbert copyIt wasn’t until she moved to Jasper about four years ago that it occurred to Rico to include landscapes in her art.

The Japanese-born, Dutch-trained artist has been drawing since before she can remember. As a child she picked up painting and more recently began working with backlit layered paper collages with a technique called hikarie.

A lot of the pieces from her time in Europe focus on a single character, some revealing secret elements when held up to the light. One example reveals an otherwise invisible fetus in the belly of a woman.

Others reflect her time as a commercial illustrator near Tokyo, with products like laundry on a drying line, or furniture. There are also some delicate floral works.

Prints of her work, which now portray lifelike animals native to the park against vivid and often mountain-inspired backdrops, are for sale in the form of gift cards and t-shirts around Jasper.

“I like cute stuff, but I never thought about wild animals in Japan,” Rico said. “When I move to a new place to live, I change.”

Starting on March 2, many of the originals that inspired the prints will be on prominent display at the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum and Archives.

“Some locals are excited to see my originals because they’ve seen the card,” Rico said. “When I work, it’s in the dark and usually at night with a small lightbox, and I’m always by myself so I’m excited, too, to show the original pieces. It’s something new for me.”

Rio said she is especially grateful for the creative work of three local carpenters who helped build the lightbox frames her pieces are hung in.

“We worked together on what wood and LED lights to use,” she said, standing in the exhibit room. “They all had different personalities and different techniques and materials.”

With the first carpenter, for example, they settled on wider, unpainted slats of wood and a warm, incandescent-inspired LED light. The third carpenter had some expertise in wiring and electricity, so his frames are much thinner, are painted white and feature a brighter low-profile LED strip to fit in the narrower cavity behind the paper.

Rico settled on the paper collage medium years ago. She considered working with prints (fabricating templates from paper then imprinting the image with ink on another material), but decided to leave the ink and press alone.

“I changed my mind,” she said. “I thought ‘It’s already beautiful with light, I shouldn’t add the ink.’”

The exhibit runs until April 9 and will feature a workshop on how to create a “secret letter” with the hikarie technique on March 26. To reserve a spot email

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