We Who Work
Prints and tapestries by hung liu
EXHIBITION FOR THE SANTA CRUZ MUSEUM OF ART AND HISTORY
“When I look back I see I have done a lot of work. I have accomplished a lot but that is not enough. It is a reason to be better, more generous, and never stop learning or pushing yourself forward.”
-- Hung Liu
We Who Work; Prints and Tapestries by Hung Liu presented a collection of Hung Liu’s prints, tapestries, and cast resin paintings that were united by a common theme: they honored workers. Alongside Hung Liu’s art were tools from Santa Cruz County workers and research about low wage working conditions in Santa Cruz County. Like Liu’s artwork, these tools shed light on those (predominantly women) who's stories don't often get told.
Born in China in 1948, Hung Liu grew up during Chairman Mao's regime. She trained as a painter in Socialist Realism, making government-sanctioned art that glorified Communist values. She painted peasants smiling in sunny fields. But the paintings masked the truth.
During the Cultural Revolution Liu worked in rice fields seven days a week for four years. She remembers: “When you get up at three o’clock during harvest season and work in the mud, nobody is smiling.”
Turning Socialist Realism into what she calls “Social Realism,” Liu now grounds her work in authentic, emotional realities. In 1984, Liu immigrated to California with $20 in her pocket. She is now celebrated as one of our country’s most renowned artists.