Migrant Child: Kitty
Dimensions: 48 x 48″
Media: oil on canvas
Hung Liu’s “Migrant Child: Kitty” depicts a young girl clutching a kitten to her chest. She stares directly out at the viewer, both arms curl around the animal in a protective and endearing manner. Liu contrasts the dark hues embedded in the background of the work as well as those inlaid in the child’s hair and eyes with the bright, sunny yellow of her frock. By focusing in on the child and the kitten, Liu captures a quiet moment of tenderness and new life in the midst of extreme poverty and hunger that ruled the Dust Bowl Era.
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