Hung Liu - The Martyr
American, born in China, b.1948
The Martyr, 2001
Lithograph with collage, 30 x 30 inches
Edition 26/30
Shark's Ink

Purchase by the William Davidson Institute

Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948, growing up under the Maoist regime. She emigrated from the Peoples Republic of China to the United States in 1984, having come of age as a young woman and artist during the Cultural Revolution. She currently lives in Oakland and is a tenured professor in the art department at Mills College.

The Martyr is one of three prints in the series Unofficial Portraits. Using anonymous historical photographs as a basis for her images, she embellishes the surfaces with drawings of insects, butterflies and birds, and with painterly drips and collaged Chinese paper cut-outs. The viewer is given a "type" of individual around which unknown stories can be reconstructed through historical and cultural associations. In the case of The Martyr, the figure's identity seems bound up with China's history of political complexities, especially the Cultural Revolution that Liu lived through while coming of age. Liu situates her art between remembering and forgetting: "Between dissolving and preserving is the rich middle-ground where the meaning of an image is found. My prints are metaphors for memory and history."