Portrait: Pea Picker
Dimensions: 72 x 72″
Media: oil on canvas
Hung Liu’s “Pea Picker” displays an enchanting portrait of a young woman from the Dust Bowl Era. Cloaked in a bonnet to shade her face from the sun, the figure gazes out beyond the frame. Her glance seems to acknowledge a past of hardship and strife and, yet, a simultaneous sense of confidence and strength toward the future. Liu incorporates vibrant contour lines in the woman’s face as well as warm tones in the background of the piece to instill the scene with a sense of calm contentment. Through her use of color and composition, Liu transforms the scene into one of thoughtful and contemplative optimism when it comes to embracing a future of unknowns.
Hung 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.
By Sally Sasz, Morehead-Cain Scholar, Art History/English student, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill