Dimensions: 60 x 60″
Media: oil on canvas
The young girl in Hung Liu’s “Cotton Carrier” balances a massive bag of cotton over her left shoulder. Paradoxically, the bag is almost larger than the girl herself. Despite this implied physical struggle under the weight of the bag, the girl seems to smile. Not to mention, the exposed, vibrant contour lines in the piece bring saturated, lively color to the girl’s frame. Liu furthers this seemingly impossible sense of optimism with her predominantly yellow color scheme. Hints of yellow and gold tones shine through the figure and create a glowing halo in the background of the image. Thus, Liu uses color to transform the aura of the child to one of struggle to one of positivity and hope.
Hung Liu first discovered the Dorothea Lange photographic archive in 2015. She immediately became fascinated by the struggles of the migrants in Lange’s Dust Bowl Era photographs. Liu is empathetic because like them, Hung Liu herself was forced to leave her home during the Cultural Revolution of her childhood in China. And ironically, like Dorothea Lange, Hung Liu used a camera (in Liu’s case a smuggled one) to document the struggles of the people she encountered during that time. This painting shows Liu’s fascination with the way we care for one another, even when we can barely care for ourselves. Liu explores the sensitivity of children in her current body of work titled “Catcher in the Rays.” Inspired by “Catcher in the Rye,” in which Catcher is the child who tries desperately to keep civilization from falling into an abyss, Liu paints children as resilient guides to show humanity a positive way forward.
By Sally Sasz, Morehead-Cain Scholar, Art History/English student, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill