Tag Archives: Junko Fukazawa

What is Art and To Whom Does It Belong

Laurie says:

I posted about this article by Junko Fukazawa when she first wrote to me about it:

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.

I was very interested in what she had to say.  After I received the magazine, I took a while to have a translation (everyone’s life is very full). When my friend Becky (Professor Rebecca Jennison from Kyoto-Seika University) was here, we went to a local cafe to catch up. She didn’t have time to do a professional translation but she translated it line by line at the cafe table and I wrote it all down. Then we did a fair amount of copy editing and emailed it to her to check. And I went over it again for this post. So the article that follows is an _informal_ translation that gives a reasonable sense of what Junko wrote.  When one of the very busy women I work with has time, I’ll have a proper formal translation. But that may take quite a while and I’ve been wanting to post it.
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Junko Fukazawa says:

If art is a white christian men’s form of visual expression?

So long to answer the question. Consider theology, classic music, opera, church architecture, wall paintings, portraits of important men, tales, myths, bible, Greeks, Mary Magdalene, prostitutes…

I first had doubts about art when I entered art school in 1970. How few paintings and drawings of nude women did I learn about? The school had no male models.

It is really interesting to look at the human body, so I kept going and graduated from Art College, but without an answer as to why all the models were women. But as a student I had looked at Western art and saw that since long ago there were male nude models. So in Western art the male body was/is the standard of beauty. The woman’s body was in fact considered to be below that standard and was looked down upon, and therefore became the expression of male sexual desire.

When we look at feminist art and feminist performance art outside of Japan, we can see that women in the west have strongly felt the need to become {not} subjects – to take back the expression of the female body that has been the object of the male gaze.

To go beyond the repression that is art.

I was blown away by the one self-portrait of Alice Neal did. (She had done portraits of other people all her life.) We see a nude, an aging woman holding a brush. There are many examples of Western art of each of these things, but here for the first time they are all in one painting. Here is a way that feminist thought can be concretely expressed: A famous 80 year old artist sitting on the same striped chair that many nudes have been painted in, wearing glasses, holding a brush and looking in the mirror. That she is wearing glasses is proof that she is looking actively and that this portrait is in progress. You know that she is looking in the mirror. What a brilliant intellectual way this is of critiquing history.

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Women En Large is a project that is intelligent and gentle to people. These are portraits but they also include the words of the models. Photographer Laurie Toby Edison and editor and model Debbie Notkin very gently and strongly convey to the viewer the individuality, the interior feelings, and the body self image of the women. How they understand and accept themselves is communicated very considerately, strongly and clearly. The viewer becomes conscious that the strength of this expression and their strong existence is what they see.

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April’s words: I decided that I was never again going to allow someone to victimize me because of my size. Furthermore, I decided to enjoy myself the way I was. body and personality both.

Junko: You yourself decide who you want to be.

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.”