October 13 - November 26, 2005
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In her October 2005 exhibition at the Rena Bransten Gallery, Hung Liu will show new paintings celebrating the life of Polly Bemis. A Chinese woman who arrived in America during gold rush days, Polly lived in the Wild West community of Warren, Idaho where she married Charlie Bemis. After his death in 1922, she lived alone on a tiny homestead on the Salmon River. From her humble beginnings, Polly overcame tremendous odds to become a respected and beloved member of the pioneer community.
Transferring pictures of Polly from historical photographs to her canvases, Hung Liu uses dripping veils of paint to suggest the passage of time. She then adds images from different periods in Chinese art - such as birds and flowers, vessels and pottery, and characters from different dynasties - to comment on or mitigate, symbolically, the hardships of Polly's life in the new world. Liu's training as a social realist painter in China provided a technically proficient background for her almost photographic rendering of people and objects. That graphic skill plus her ability to suggest so much history through small details allow her to blend reality and artistic embellishment to perfectly represent the rich complexities of Polly Bemis' story.
An illustrated catalogue with an essay by William Fox accompanies the exhibition.
Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948, and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing. She emigrated from China to the US in 1984 to attend the University of California, San Diego, where she received an MFA. She currently lives in Oakland and is a tenured professor in the art department at Mills College. Her work is included in major museum collections throughout the country.