Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Thursday Tease

Going Away, Coming Home
80 Blessings from Oakland Artist Ms. Hung Liu
(click the photos for an enlarged view)

For this week's Thursday Tease, I thought it appropriate to share with those who have not been fortunate to see the Going Away, Coming Home installation at the Oakland Airport by artist Hung Liu. With all my years of traveling, this is the FIRST time I've had to switch planes at this airport and I believe it is a poignant message to me, as I travel this year, from one show to the next. I am also a glass artist and Chinese too. I found many messages in my travels this trip which I will tell you more about in future posts. For now, let's all admire professor Liu's wonderful glass art and special message to travelers coming and going!

(excerpt from the Oakland Airport Installation)

Going Away, Coming Home. Hung Liu's 160 foot glass mural is also a layered work of art. It is composed of two panes of glass, two sides of which are either hand painted, airbrushed or photo etched. The light that penetrates the glass panels allows the layers in Liu's art to be literally apparent as well as metaphorically powerful. The imagery is itself layered: an overlay of digital satellite photographs of the California coast and the Asian Pacific, a web of longitudinal and latitudinal lines, tracings of geo-political borders and edges, organic weather patterns of clouds and clear surfaces of water and land, and, of course, the elegant network of imperial cranes flying above and sitting atop an imperial palace. Not only is each crane layered in the paint that compose it, but its silhouette is sandblasted behind it - on the outer layer of glass - allowing light that would otherwise darken the paint (even white paint) to be caputred in the etched surface, thereby illuminating the cranes from behind, turning darkness into light. And the painted circles keep everything afloat...

Within The Window

There is nothing that involves only going without returning. It is the nature of Heaven and Earth. When there is going, there also must be returning. ~ I Ching

Hung Liu is an Oakland artist whose work is exhibited widely in the United States and Asia. A California resident for 20 years, she was born and reared in China, coming of age during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution. In many ways, Going Away, Coming Home, Liu's first effort in glass at such a large scale, can be seen as emblematic of her history as a Chinese immigrant and her focus as a contemporary artist.

Many of the images encompassed in the window reference potent symbols of Asian culture. The red-crowned crane - the second rarest crane species in the world - has been a Chinese symbol of peace, purity, wisdom, fidelity, prosperity and longevity for centuries. In China, the color red (present in the crane's bright crown) is considered to bring good luck and is a sacred, vital color used in the expression of joy and a talisman against evil. The circles represent the universe and eternity. In the Japanese philosophy of Zen Buddhism, they also indicate endlessness, emptiness and wholeness, all at the same time.

Known for her innovative use of historical materials, Liu's placement of the cranes is directly influenced by the 12th-century Chinese painting, Auspicious Cranes. dating from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), the hanging scroll painted by Emperor Huizong depicts 20 cranes flying over the roof of his palace, bringing the blessings of peace and prosperity to his dwelling. Nine centuries later, Liu extends this metaphor to include safe travel by incorporating 20 flying cranes into each of the FOUR window sections, in effect bringing 80 blessings to the travelers who pass by them.

Liu's painting technique has its roots in the traditions of Chinese calligraphy and the exuberance of Abstract Expressionism. The earthy, material weight of paint and its drips contrasts with the images of the birds aloft and their aspiration toward flight. While the paint succumbs to the forces of gravity, the birds ascend and break free, flying upward despite its pull. The white - not black - shadows underneath the cranes reinforce their heavenly and angelic nature.

Underlying Liu's lyrical painting is a second layer of glass created from satellite photography. The map begins with a close up of the Bay Area and expands sequentially away from the Northern California coast to include the entire Asian Pacific region. Departing passengers experience an expansion of scale as they pass by. Returning passengers see the image reduce in dimension back toward the Bay Area, like the descent through the skies to come home to Oakland.

In Going Away, Coming Home, Liu has masterfully combined Western technology with Chinese traditions to bring the blessings of peace, wisdom and prosperity to all.


BRAVO to Ms. Liu for delivering her art and message well. I hope this Thursday Tease inspires you to create with a story and then tell it well to share with others.

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