Hung Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948. She grew up in Beijing during the time of Mao Zedong. After finishing high school in 1968 she was sent to the countryside for four years during the Cultural Revolution where she worked with peasants in rice, wheat, and cornfields seven days a week. During this time, she photographed and painted these people, and they remain the subjects of her paintings today. Hung wants to give these people a life of beauty and respect in her paintings. Hung attended the Central Academy of Art in Beijing, and waited seven years for the Chinese government to approve her passport to pursue her Master’s Degree in painting at U.C. San Diego. Since her arrival in the U.S., Hung’s works have been collected and exhibited by this nation’s top museums. She has created large scale paintings for the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, as well as the Oakland International Airport and the San Francisco International Airport. Hung Liu has twice received prestigious fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Several books have been written about Hung Liu and her works, and can be found on the Turner Carroll Gallery web site.
Hung Liu became widely known in the United States for her paintings of Chinese workers and concubines, whom she encountered while she worked along side them in the fields of the Chinese countryside during the years she was being “re-educated” via the Cultural Revolution. Hung Liu follows the Chinese cultural tradition of “calling spirits home” after death. Liu feels that lest these workers and concubines be forgotten and their spirits never “called home,” she should prepare a place for them to rest for eternity. Thus, she creates gorgeous, quasi-imperial homes for them in her paintings.
Recently, Liu has found herself drawn to the Dust Bowl era photography by Dorothea Lange. Though Lange’s subjects are American, rather than Chinese like Hung Liu’s actual ancestors, Liu sees herself in the migrant workers Lange photographed. Hung Liu has started a series of paintings inspired by Dorothea Lange’s imagery, and this body of paintings has been exhibited in major institutions throughout the United States, including at Turner Carroll Gallery’s exhibition “Hung Liu: American Dream.”