I Am a "Seagull"
Socialist realism depicted women "holding up half the sky," as in Wang Xia's Island Girl (1961) or a decade later Pan Jiajun’s I Am a "Seagull". In Pan's painting, a female soldier in the People's Liberation Army climbs an electrical pole in a thunderstrom to repair a telephone line. A strong wind blows open her army-issue raincoat, revealing her strong physique, and the wings of her coat make her look like a seagull battling the wind. Iron girls repaired high-voltage wires, welded girders, operated heavy machinery, shouldered guns, and harvested crops, dressed in the same clothes as men and performing the same tasks. They appeared again and again, "red, bright, and shining" (hong guang liang) with their gazes trained upward and outward, as official art pedagogy instructed. They became a fixture of visual culture, even as the number of prominent female artists during the height of socialism paled in comparison with their pictorial multiplicity and arguably even shrank from their ranks in early twentieth-century art circles when bourgeois women’s art education flourished in cities like Shanghai.