Daughter of the Revolution

Hung Liu American

Not on view

Daughter of the Revolution marks an important breakthrough in Hung Liu’s career. Trained in realist mural painting at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Art in the late 1970s, Liu briefly deviated from two-dimensional works in a small series of portrait paintings on shaped canvases with found objects attached; this painting is among the earliest examples. Liu used an old photograph of herself taken during the Cultural Revolution, when she spent four years of "re-education" working in the countryside. Here she updates her blue and gray peasant attire to pink, lavender, and jade green, freeing her image from its original context. To further complicate the self-portrait, she adds an antique glass bottle produced during the California Gold Rush—when Chinese immigrants were exploited as they pursued opportunities in a foreign land—to create a link between the idealism and broken dreams of 1950s China and nineteenth century America, while casting herself in a portrait of hope and defiance. In an interview, Liu described the original photographic source and its reinvention: "So, I took my picture with a scarf and lace tablecloth imitating, I think, the kind of western bourgeois identity we were then criticizing—I was staging my own private little cultural revolution, a kind of dangerous thing to do with a camera, really."[1]

[1] Kathleen McManus Zurko, "Staging Reality: An Interview with Hung Liu," in Hung Liu: A Ten-Year Survey 1988–1998, College of Wooster Art Museum, 1998, p. 42.

Daughter of the Revolution, Hung Liu (American (born China), Changchun 1948–2021 Oakland, California), Oil on canvas, wood and glass

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Photo courtesy of Turner Carroll Gallery Santa Fe Hung Liu Archive