Hung Liu is primarily known for paintings based on historical Chinese photographs. Given the epic, often tragic subject matter she represents, and the way her images sometimes dissolve in veils of linseed oil, her style is a kind of weeping realism. Liu’s newest paintings, however, are based upon the Dustbowl and Depression era photographs of American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange, whom she has long admired.
At first, the shift from Chinese to American subjects may surprise Liu’s audience. Having grown up in revolutionary China, however, she is familiar with landscapes of social struggle and displaced humanity.
In her paintings for the Gail Severn Gallery, Liu continues her interest in Lange’s Dustbowl subjects, focusing on individual portraits of children, their parents, and family groups. Suggesting the vast scale of their migration, Liu has also painstakingly painted an expansive scene of an Idaho landscape marked by burned tree stumps and abandoned mail boxes, as if bearing witness to the devastation of the 1930s in the American west.