Hung Liu – Reader
Dimensions: 60 x 60″ finished size
Medium: mixed media on panel
Hung Liu’s Reader is a remarkable work. Obviously, the woman in the painting is an American woman, likely a farm worker. Liu draws the inspiration from this image from a Dorothea Lange photograph from the Dust-bowl era in America. Lange, like Liu, was a formidable woman artist–in fact, the first woman artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Liu relates to this image in that she imagines this woman had the same determination to succeed as Liu, herself, had to have to survive her life under the Maoist regime in China. The gorgeous background of the painting is Liu’s underdrawing of her remarkable masterwork “Onion Field”, which she worked on for over three years. The onion field was photographed by Dorothea Lange, and in “Reader” Liu has combined images from two Lange photographs to create a tribute to hard work and perseverance of the human spirit which we all possess, no matter our nationality.
Hung Liu, working with master printer David Salgado, developed a unique method of creating her mixed media works in which she places layers of resin, paint, and metal leaf on panel. This process creates the impression of great depth in her works, as well as a sheen reminiscent of Chinese porcelain. The inspiration for this technique came from her public art installation at the Oakland Airport, titled “Going Away, Coming Home,” where she had the opportunity to paint on glass. She loved the way the sunlight emanated through the translucent layers of paint. This led her to seek the same luminescence in other of her works. These mixed media resin works could be described as illuminated paintings, for multiple reasons. One reason is the fact that these mixed media resin works begin with metal leaf (often gold) on panel, in the same the manner as a Russian icon would be painted. The gold represents the sanctity of the subject; a covering of the natural world (represented by the wooden panel’s surface) with the sacred and pure. Another reason these works can be regarded as “illuminated” is the obvious implication of light emanating from within them as light bounces off the base layer of metal leaf and reflects back through the layers of paint.
Liu’s works are included in more than 50 top museums throughout the world.
-Tonya Turner Carroll
Hung Liu’s mixed media resin works are included in numerous important museums throughout the world; among them the San Jose Museum of Art and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, which boasts the largest collection of these works and is curating a comprehensive exhibition and book documenting them. Hung Liu is honored that one of these works was included in the major exhibition “Gold” featuring important artworks throughout the history of art that have included gold leaf, at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, Austria.