Whenever I fly into and out of Oakland International I see Going Away, Coming Home, an art project of flying cranes by Hung Liu.

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 major effort in glass, 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 to express joy and as a talisman against evil. The circles represent the universe and eternity and 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, Lui 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.

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 imagery reduce in dimension back toward the Bay Area, like the descent through the skies to come home to Oakland.

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

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