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Rat Year 2020 II: The Last Dandelion

In this, her final self-portrait before her death in August 2021, Hung Liu depicted herself wearing a mask, a common face covering in the age of Covid. Look carefully, however, and you will see that the “mask” is the nearly unpainted linen beneath the picture itself. Vulnerability—the lack of any real covering at all—is implied.

Meanwhile, the adjacent rusty bronze panel shows a dandelion, one of Liu’s favorite subjects, plucked down to its final seed (or pappus). Countless other pappi have drifted away in the winds of life. It is unlikely the artist knew she was ill when painting this work, but she did know her strength was declining. Thus, the phrase “last dandelion” suggests an underlying a...

Oil on canvas and acrylic on wood

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