Hung Liu’s Xiao Lu triptych was inspired by the artist’s encounters with two fallen deer. In November of 2008, Liu was taking a morning walk in the Oakland hills when she saw a prone deer; the artist stopped and borrowed her husband’s cell phone to capture the image. She walked around the animal, photographing it from various angles. Later, while making drawings and paintings based on these photographs, the artist says she had the sense that the deer was flying or dancing, as if caught in the performance of a sequence of ethereal movements.
In May of 2009, Liu found a baby deer lying dead on the road. She carefully placed its body in the back of her car and brought it to her studio, where she again took photographs. Liu used these images as studies for works on paper and canvas, capturing the animal’s fragile, helpless form as its spirit drifted to a different plane of existence.
“Inside the Dunhuang grottoes,” says Liu, “there are ancient Buddhist murals, always depicting apsaras – flying angels without wings. From some angles, the deer looked just like those apsaras: caught in mid-flight, ascending to heaven.”