Internment and Anguish: The Exiled Chinese Artist’s Photographs Reflect Her Isolation and Grief During Her Late Husband’s Political Imprisonment | Arts

The show opens with separate, informal portraits of the couple, each in an outdoor setting, but obviously taken in different seasons. A bespectacled Xiu Lia wears a knit slide cap in the photo on the left, while her husband poses in a dark T-shirt and baggy pants on the right.

Liu Xia: Untitled (from Silk Series), 2004-2005

Hanes Art Gallery, provided

She has a determined but sphinx-like expression, while he looks vaguely worried. Made during a temporary reprieve from his incarceration, the photographic couple ultimately reflects their physical separation.

Landscapes like those in the background of these two photos provide the sole content of some of Liu Xia’s photographs. They were made during this same period, and although the couple were then together, the images evoke the loneliness and desolation she must have felt later, in the absence of her husband.

Liu Xiao

Liu Xia: Untitled (from Lonely Planets), 2014-2015

Hanes Art Gallery, provided

Of the 32 distinct square-format photographs in his exhibition, some are combined to form diptychs and triptychs, but most are shown separately. Some photos highlight elements of the landscape, including dried leaves, tree stumps, a frozen waterfall and distant mountains. Others focus on pieces of crumpled paper, rolled-up fabric, or crushed and sculpted aluminum foil to form standard geometric shapes or stylized animal figurines.

Five of the photos feature a plastic doll a friend gave to Liu Xia – an “ugly doll”, in his words – whose eyes seem impassive but whose mouth is tilted to one side in a permanent grimace. These photos have an effect reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, the iconic painting whose solitary protagonist has become the embodiment of existential terror.

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