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A conversation with the artist, Hung Liu: reflections about making.

In the conversation that follows, Hung Liu Hung Liu (刘虹)(b. February 17, 1948) in Changchun, China is a Chinese-American contemporary artist.

Hung Liu was born in the People's Republic, China and immigrated to the United States in 1984.
 and I talk about her experience as an art maker. I first ask her to talk about her views of art, in general. Knowing what an art maker considers to be important about art will help establish some parameters for other questions to be asked.

Focusing upon the work featured in this issue, Children of a Lesser God, Hung Liu reveals the kinds of ideas that are important to her as she makes her art. We discuss her working methods, and she talks about influences on her work, other writings and the collaborative nature of her working process.

The interview with Hung Liu can serve as a model for the kinds of issues to be raised in an inquiry-based art program when students talk with other art makers. it also provides evidence of the depth of learning that can occur as a result of this kind of inquiry.

A Conversation with Hung Liu, December 17,1995

MS: Hung Liu, what kinds of artworks are important to you? What makes an artwork special?

HL: In general, an artwork is important to me, first of all, if it catches my heart. After finding a work to be visually intriguing in·trigue  
a. A secret or underhand scheme; a plot.

b. The practice of or involvement in such schemes.

2. A clandestine love affair.

, my response is emotional. My heart starts to beat very fast. I can relate it to listening to a piece of good music. You respond first to the sound, and then your mind starts to work. it is like smelling something sweet or even something horrible and then asking yourself, "What is it? " Good artworks catch your heart and then make you think. You ask a lot of questions. A good artwork gives you alternative ways to observe the world you live in. You think, "I never thought this kind of horrible thing could be portrayed so powerfully," or "i never thought a simple apple could be shown in such a special way."

MS: What are some things that good art can show us?

HL: The beauty of certain things, the power of social situations. It might be very small and personal or very big and political. it might be simply about a color combination that I've never thought about before. The artist translates and transforms ordinary things through extra effort. in the best work, no matter if it is literature, music, theater, the cinema, the artist has to have compassion for society. The artist must be careful, in a big sense, of the human race and of our earth. The artist must have a good heart, being careful of humans and being honest with oneself. An artist must not be self-centered.

MS: What kinds of things do you express in your own artwork?

HL: I always feel that the things I am most passionate about are the things I want to show in my work. My language is a visual language--different from poetry. I have to search for the right language. I try to find answers with my work, but I always find more questions. Art has to be relevant to the world, to who you are, to the environment you live in, your cultural-historical background, and your personal experiences.

MS: What have you expressed in your painting, Children of a Lesser God?

HL: The painting has many layers. It is not just about these children working in the cannery in Baltimore. It is about humanity, about civilization. Our lives are a lot better today because these children were used as a labor force. Some of them probably have descendants DESCENDANTS. Those who have issued from an individual, and include his children, grandchildren, and their children to the remotest degree. Ambl. 327 2 Bro. C. C. 30; Id. 230 3 Bro. C. C. 367; 1 Rop. Leg. 115; 2 Bouv. n. 1956.
 living today. We should remember these children and honor them. They lost even their childhoods, and we have forgotten them. But, many cultures have encountered the same face--the child as a laborer.

MS: Some of the children are hard to see. The paint is very thin and their features seem washed away. Why did you paint them this way?

HL: I purposefully pur·pose·ful  
1. Having a purpose; intentional: a purposeful musician.

2. Having or manifesting purpose; determined: entered the room with a purposeful look.
 used much linseed oil linseed oil, amber-colored, fatty oil extracted from the cotyledons and inner coats of the linseed. The raw oil extracted from the seeds by hydraulic pressure is pale in color and practically without taste or odor.  with the paint to wash away a lot of the faces. They are like ghosts--so remote. They symbolize our selective memory. This is a metaphor for memory as history. in our memory of the past, we have lost the links--the specifics.

MS: I am curious about the title you have given this painting. What does it mean?

HL: I saw the movie with the same title. it was about being deaf and using another language. My first language is Chinese, so there was this language connection to the film. But, I thought the title itself suggested some interesting ideas and questions. For instance, it suggests that there is a "lesser" or "more" God. In the movie, children of the "lesser" God were disabled, and the title suggests that their lives are not as full. The immigrant children who worked in the canneries were disabled as well. They were without shoes, without good clothes, without playgrounds; they were "nobodies," children of a lesser God.

MS: How did you decide to do this particular painting when you were working on the The Baltimore Series?

HL: The painting is based on one of many photographs I studied when I was working on the series. I was taken by it, first of all, because it was an old-fashioned photograph. it looked as if someone had come through the cannery, perhaps to document what happened there. I'm not sure why. Some of the children really intrigued me. I thought about how the photographer who took the picture had to arrange the people. The children were probably curious, maybe even a little frightened fright·en  
v. fright·ened, fright·en·ing, fright·ens
1. To fill with fear; alarm.

. You can see one boy near the center who is smiling. He has no shoes, yet he smiled for the camera. His smile is a heart-breaking kind of smile, an innocent generous smile. I thought about how these young people who were at different distances from the camera, all worked in the same plant. In this frozen instant, they were captured together by the camera.

MS: How do you think your own life experiences have influenced your selection of subject matter in your work?

HL: In my art education in China, I looked at a lot of Russian Socialist Realist re·al·ist  
1. One who is inclined to literal truth and pragmatism.

2. A practitioner of artistic or philosophic realism.

Noun 1.
 art. The subject matter has a lot to do with the working class and their harsh conditions.

MS: You often include objects in your paintings. In Children of a Lesser God, you included tin cans tin cans

put on car of newlyweds leaving ceremony. [Am. Cult.: Misc.]

See : Marriage
, without labels, mounted on solid red cubes which protrude pro·trude
1. To push or thrust outward.

2. To jut out; project.
 out from the painting. Why did you include these?

HL: Red is an alarming color. We use red lights to warn people; to tell about danger and to use caution. In China, red is the color of the national flag. It is also the color of revolution. it suggests blood. Red also is used for celebration; it is festive fes·tive  
1. Of, relating to, or appropriate for a feast or festival.

2. Merry; joyous: a festive party.
 and is used for such things as weddings, the Chinese New Year Chinese New Year (Simplified Chinese: ; Traditional Chinese: ; Pinyin: Chūnjié), or Spring Festival , and red banners Red Banner (Russian: Красное знамя) was a symbol of the USSR associated with the Soviet state flag. Military units to which the Order of the Red Banner has been awarded are referred to with the honorific title . I like to work with layers of meaning. In this painting, I am thinking that these red cubes are like little altars. They are shrines to promote thought about the loss of identity of those children. There is a reference to Andy Warhol's soup cans which also refer to mass production, to labeling and commercializing. I have used real, tangible, solid cans, but without labels. They have a mysteriousness about them, like the photograph of the children.

MS: How is this painting like others you have done?

HL: For the last six or seven years, I have focused upon historical references--photographs, diagrams and other references.

MS: How do you decide what to paint?

HL: I don't have a premeditated pre·med·i·tat·ed  
Characterized by deliberate purpose, previous consideration, and some degree of planning: a premeditated crime.
 idea of what I will paint before I start, such as showing children working in horrible conditions. I look at as many images as possible--hundreds of photographs. I surround myself with these images, live with them and feel grounded with them. By looking at a lot, over and over again, I put myself in the middle. I have a relationship with these photographs. It is interesting, we all have family photo albums, but we seldom look at them. I probably look at these historical photographs more than I do at my own family photos. I cannot paint from all of them, but they are all there helping to nurture NURTURE. The act of taking care of children and educating them: the right to the nurture of children generally belongs to the father till the child shall arrive at the age of fourteen years, and not longer. Till then, he is guardian by nurture. Co. Litt. 38 b.  my ideas. Out of maybe a hundred photographs, I decide on about five to think about more carefully and perhaps to use in a painting.

MS: Do you work on one painting at a time, until it is finished?

HL: I work on more than one canvas a time. After I start, I know pretty much where I am going. I get into a rhythm. The kind of rhythm as I begin a painting is different from the rhythm in the middle or at the end. Sometimes, I work on one canvas for a few days and then feel like I want a change of rhythm or spirit. There is also a difference in working with a different scale. A small painting requires a different kind of body movement, for example.

MS: DO you ever experience something you liked "writer's block writer's block Psychiatry An occupational neurosis of authors, in whom creative juices are temporarily or permanently inspissated " in that you are not sure what to do next?

HL: Sometimes. But, if you are surrounded by your works, you learn from them.

MS: What other artists have influenced your work??

HL: Chinese poems and writings have my work. I have also learned much from historical writings I encounter in my own research. I've learned a lot from others who know what I'm interested in. People send me information and ideas. When I used fortune cookies in my work, people sent me so many things. When I visited women with bound feet, I liked them and learned so much. Beyond the actual painting, I f eel eel, common name for any fish of the 10 families constituting the order Anguilliformes, and characterized by a long snakelike body covered with minute scales embedded in the skin.  that my work is grounded because of these things "These Things" is an EP by She Wants Revenge, released in 2005 by Perfect Kiss, a subsidiary of Geffen Records. Music Video
The music video stars Shirley Manson, lead singer of the band Garbage. Track Listing
1. "These Things [Radio Edit]" - 3:17
 learned from others. For me, making art is all a learning process.

Marilyn Stewart is a Professor of Art Education at Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pennsylvania Kutztown is a borough in Berks County, Pennsylvania, 18 miles (29 km) west southwest of Allentown and 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Reading. As of the 2000 census, the borough has a total population of 5,067. .

Resources Corrin, lisa. Hung Liu's Canton Canton, cities, United States

1 City (1990 pop. 13,922), Fulton co., W central Ill., in the corn belt; inc. 1849. It is a trade and industrial center for a coal and farm area.

2 Town (1990 pop. 18,530), Norfolk co.

The Baltimore Series,"In

Search of Miss Sallie Chu,"

(exhibition brochure),1995. Lippard, Lucy.Mixed Blessings mixed blessing

an event or situation with both advantages and disadvantages

mixed blessing n it's a mixed blessing → tiene su lado bueno y su lado malo


New Art in a Multicultural mul·ti·cul·tur·al  
1. Of, relating to, or including several cultures.

2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.

America. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: Pantheon pantheon (păn`thēŏn', –thēən), term applied originally to a temple to all the gods. The

Pantheon at Rome was built by Agrippa in 27 B.C., destroyed, and rebuilt in the 2d cent. by Hadrian.

Books, 1990. Turner, Caroline, ed. Tradition and

Change: Contemporary Art of

Asia and the Pacific. Queensland,

Brisbane, Australia: University

of Queenland Press, 1993.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Stewart, Marilyn
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Interview
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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