Hung Liu – Migrant Child: Puppies
Dimensions: 60 x 48″
Media: oil on canvas
Hung Liu’s “Migrant Child: Puppies” features a young boy cradling two new-born puppies against his chest, one in either arm. The painting seems almost monochromatic as the child’s skin blends almost seamlessly into his clothing; yet, Liu leaves the vibrant contour lines exposed to imbue the boy with an invigorated sense of vitality. The bright colors reinvigorate the child’s meager frame. Paired the the soft, lilac background of the piece, Liu’s use of color instills the moment captured in the scene with an endearing sense of compassion and royalty. Purple has been associated with royalty since early Roman times, and Liu’s association of purple with this depression-era child asserts her humanistic belief that every human life is sacred, no matter what race, religion, or socio-economic strata it occupies.
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