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    painting of a man and a girl looking at plants in a field

    Covering the Cover: Generations

    By Rosalind Stevenson

    December 3, 2022

    In this painting, Chinese-American artist Hung Liu captures the handing down of skills and knowledge from father to daughter. Liu grew up in China under the Maoist regime. As an artist, she frequently used old photographs as her inspiration, recreating them with the more personal, deliberate process of painting. Her chosen subjects were the underdogs of society – prostitutes, refugees, street performers, laborers, prisoners – and her paintings emphasize their humanity and dignity. She later moved to the United States where she continued her work, drawing artistic inspiration largely from Dorothea Lange’s photography during the Depression era. The 2017 painting we selected for our cover is entitled “Tobacco Sharecroppers,” and comes from a series called “Promised Land” that depicts American families and individuals struggling for survival during these difficult years.

    While we initially had reservations about the fact that the crop shown here is tobacco, we ultimately decided that this added a necessary layer of complexity and shadow to what might otherwise tend to be a warm and fuzzy subject. The moment depicted in this painting shows that intergenerational connections are not just story-time with grandma. They are also a father’s hard work to provide for his family, the decisions and compromises many parents find themselves having to make, and the importance of instructing the next generation in the ways of nature. After all, as addressed in some of the articles in this issue, inherited trauma, broken homes, the struggles of working-class families, and the decline of birthrates are all part of the generational conversation.

    In 2020, the year before she died, Hung Liu wrote of passing down a complicated legacy across two cultures: “When I moved to the West, exactly half a lifetime ago, I carried my ghosts with me. The ghosts I carry are a burden, but also a blessing.”

    front cover of Plough Quarterly No. 34: Generations: a painting of a man and a girl looking at plants in a field

    Hung Liu, Tobacco Sharecroppers, archival pigment print with hand work and gold leafing, 2017. Courtesy of Hung Liu Studios and Gail Severn Gallery.


    Another View

    Stephen Zhang was born in China and graduated from Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts in Shenyang, later receiving his MFA degree from the University of North Texas. He has been painting watercolor for over thirty years under the guidance of his father, Defu Zhang. “I choose the specific subject to paint, not only based on its appearance, but also its inner spirit and the story,” he says. “Each time I apply a stroke to the painting, I add another angle to the story, or another layer of emotion.” See more of his work.

    painting of a man giving a boy a haircut with pictures of their ancestors behind them

    Stephen Zhang, Haircut, watercolor on paper, 2016. Used by permission.


    Back Cover

    Ages are coming, roll on and vanish,
    Children shall follow where fathers passed;
    Never our pilgrim song, joyful and heaven-born,
    Shall cease while time and mountains last.
    —Bernhard Severin Ingemann (1789–1862)

    painting of a tree against a starry sky

    Shonto Begay, Tree of Seven Hearts, acrylic on canvas, 2014 Used by permission from the artist and Tom Alexander Photography.

    Shonto Begay is a Diné (Navajo) painter, illustrator, author, and educator. Born in a hogan, one of sixteen children, he grew up herding sheep. His mother is a traditional Navajo rug weaver from the Bitter Water Clan, and his father was a medicine man born to the Salt Clan. Shonto began professionally writing, illustrating, and painting in 1983. He is represented in numerous museums and fine-art galleries, and has written and illustrated several books for Scholastic and Random House. In 2017, he became an Artist in Residence at Northern Arizona University.

    Contributed By RosalindStevenson2 Rosalind Stevenson

    Rosalind Stevenson is the magazine designer for Plough. She lives at Fox Hill Bruderhof in Walden, New York.

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