Photo Notes: Feeling International

Laurie says:

I just got an email from Junko Fukazawa, who (among other things) writes, curates and gives workshops on feminism and art. She is one of the core of people that I work with on my Women of Japan Project. Her thoughts and support are very important to the work.

She is going to write a short article about Women & Art in the journal We Learn. It’s published by The Foundation of Japan Association for Women’s Education. The foundation is highly respected by the women’s groups and women’s centers in Japan. She will be writing from feminist perspective about a self-portrait of Alice Neel at 80, and an image (not yet chosen) from Women En Large.

(All links are to the magazines, not to the articles about me or my images. These are print publications and the specific articles are not on the web.)

I got me thinking about the fact that my work has been/will be in several international publications this year. In Korea, in a beautifully produced fashion/political magazine /Dazed and Confused/Korea. (There is also a British and a Japanese version of the magazine.) The article, Ugly Beautiful, was about beauty outside the narrow limits of fashion and was illustrated by a large number of images including mine, Botero’s and Irving Penn’s.

And in December, there will be an article about my work and Familiar Men in Filament. Filament Magazine is a quarterly magazine, self described as 72 pages of intelligent thought and beautiful men. The thinking woman’s crumpet. Their very thoughtful questions certainly lived up to their description, and I’m looking forward to seeing the article, which also includes a number of the male nude photos.

This seems like a good time to put up Junko Fukazawa’s image from Women of Japan and her text. She is a strong vivid and expressive woman, so portraying her in motion felt right.

Laurie asked me, “By the way, what should I say you do?”

Here it comes.

What is your specialty? What do you do?

I can never give a good answer.

Even though I am over 50 years old, I hesitate as to how I should answer these questions. The I who has been rejected by existing specialties, and the I who has refused to enter such specialties. Stuck between those two spaces I have continued to engage in my daily work and activities. I thought that by doing so I would eventually find my natural place. But I must soon accept the conclusion that this seems not to be the case. I feel a disconnect and an incompatibility between myself as a woman and the system that blankets Japanese society.

I went to an arts college and majored in oil painting. What controlled that arena was a male-dominant sense of values centered on sexuality and an atmosphere that extolled expressions of sexual violence against women. I could hardly stay in a place like that, even though to leave meant I was branded with the labels of failure, defeat, and dropping out.

As the years passed since I left my “specialty,” I have come to realize that the space that I have entered is much wider and deeper, and that the people I have met are far more enriching.

A friend I met a few years ago asked me to go with her as “just a woman” when she went to seek her just conclusion by going to confront the person who had assaulted her in the past.

“Just a woman.” I thought that was wonderful and an honor.

I still need to pursue much discipline before I can become a tried and true “just a woman.”