The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Look Up to the Sky: Mills College Art Museum exhibit honors Hung Liu’s art and mentorship

Gabriella Mbaoua
The Mills College Art Museum stands at 5000 MacArthur Blvd in Oakland, CA. “Look up to the Sky,” dedicated to Bay Area creator Hung Liu, opened Jan. 20 and will be open until March 24.

Jan. 20  marked the opening of a new exhibit at Mills College Art Museum, a gallery building founded in 1925 that hosts many exhibitions year round featuring works from artists all over the world. Students, faculty, staff and all campus visitors can experience a variety of artwork dedicated to Bay Area creator, Hung Liu, until March 24.

Before she died in 2021, Liu worked as a professor in the Mills College Art Department and made plans with the Mills College Art Museum, or MCAM, for an exhibition. The exhibit, called “Look Up to the Sky,” not only showcases Liu’s artwork, but also features a collection of pieces from female artists mentored by her while she was teaching at Mills College, now Mills College at Northeastern University, as a tenured faculty. 

Liu, a Chinese immigrant, dedicated much of her art to marginalized individuals who were often overlooked throughout history. This particular exhibition features the voices of women. The vision was to create a visual representation of Liu’s positive perspective on life, and the exhibition’s name comes from one of Liu’s most valued quotes: “When the world feels too heavy, just look up to the sky.”

The exhibition’s opening was packed with students, educators and Bay Area artists and curators — all eager to explore the love and beauty of the late painter’s extraordinary legacy. 

“To imagine all the amazing work that these artists have done, I can only imagine what an incredible professor she must have been,” said Mariella Fayad, an attendee of the opening and a first-year Global Scholars student in the Explore Program at Northeastern University’s Oakland campus. “In art, there isn’t one way to do it. There are many ways you can do it, and with each technique, people find their own styles and create something that is uniquely theirs.”

Each piece in the exhibit was carefully chosen by 13 women artists, who have each taken something valuable from Liu’s mentorship and applied it to their works.

The women who featured their works are Rosana Castrillo Diaz, Nicole Fein, Danielle Lawrence, Monica Lundy, Nancy Mintz, Sandra Ono, Susan Preston, Mel Prest, Rachelle Reichert, Yoshiko Shimano, Gina Tuzzi, Lien Truong and Bambi Waterman. 

The artists displayed pieces that ranged from watercolor and acrylics to mixed media. Mintz, known for designing and installing art for particular sites, used the museum’s architecture as inspiration to create one of her pieces using a technique called printmaking. 

Nicholas Abrams, a first-year computer science and design combined major who is the social media manager for the museum, discussed why he finds Liu’s work to be so inspirational.

“After going to the exhibit, I kind of realized how self-expression is only really half of what makes a painting,” he said. “What I took away is that in the future if I make art, it will probably reflect more of what I’ve learned from others than what I can express myself.”

Stephanie Hanor, the director of MCAM, spoke to me about what it was like working with Liu before her passing and the intentions behind the exhibit. 

“It’s just a part of Hung’s DNA to really seek out opportunities for people that she believes in and people who don’t necessarily get those opportunities as easily as others,” Hanor said.

Despite the changes Mills has undergone since the pandemic and its merger with Northeastern, the museum continues to deliver opportunities like the exhibit to the local community. 

“A lot of the function of what we do is actually pretty similar, and now we have this kind of interesting opportunity because we are now a part of this network of campuses,” Hanor said.

A cotton Jacquard tapestry by Hung Liu entitled “Fu (Happiness)” is displayed in the MCAM. Along with Liu’s artwork, the exhibit showcased pieces by female artists who Liu mentored at Mills College. (Gabriella Mbaoua)
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