Profile Exhibit Artist of the Week: Iona Rozeal Brown
Iona Rozeal Brown is an up and coming extraordinary painter from the Washington DC area. She is known for her ukiyo-e prints and paintings of the cultural mixture of Japanese courtesans, geisha and other subjects. She has termed her art as Afro-Asiatic Allegory symbolizing the global influence between African American culture such as Hip Hop style as a fetish to the Japanese. She has studied the culture of Japan and taken trips there to uniquely express the conflicts females go through in society whether it’s vanity bound or moral challenges. While visiting Japan in 2001 she discovered a Japanese youth culture shift called ganguro which fascinated her. This is why many of her portraits show multi-colored faced people. Brown his taken her credited degrees to become an award winning artist who opens the eyes of those who view her art.
Learn About Ukiyo-e Prints
Ukiyo-e paintings are a genre of Japanese woodblock prints also known as “pictures of the floating world.” Ukiyo-e prints where first created in the early 1600’s illustrating the entertainment life of Kabuki actors and stylish courtesans or geishas, also known as “woman of pleasure.” Then later prints when from just profiles to beautiful landscapes or nature. The making of Ukiyo-e prints are usually a group effort with an artist, publisher, wood-block carver and printer meaning it is a slightly long process.
In the making of a Ukiyo-e first the artist draws a sketch of their design with ink lines. Then the carver glues that sketch on a block made of wild cherry wood and carves out the design on an ink plate displaying the black outline also known as the reverse. They then ink and print the block to make copies. A color is applied to each block needed and pressed on the one sheet which in the end has all the colors and finished product on it.
Learn About Kabuki Theater
Kabuki is a famous cultural dance-drama performed in Japan. This theater show consists of elaborate costumes, makeup, music and a dramatic story line. When it was originally created in 1603 women could be characters and do the dances but because prostitutes decided to adopt the dance the government banned women from performing the dances. Male dancers then took over and they usually had young and feminine traits so they could dress up as men and women, these men where called onnagata. There are many stunts and amusements in these performances as most stages usually spin and have trap doors. Common plots are about historical events or moral conflict. Each character has distinctive makeup, color scheme, wardrobe and names to contrast what type of character they are.
Japanese Girls Turning Black
The Japan’s fashion capital has an interesting emerging fashion trend that goes beyond just clothes.
Picture a fairly pale or light-skinned Japanese girl with commonly dark hair transforming into a very tanned teen or young adult with colored, bleached or blonde hair and white makeup around the eyes and lips contrasting on their now darken skin. This, complemented with fake and overdone makeup accessories, colorful clothes, jewelry and platform shoes makes up a popular look in Tokyo, Japan.
These teens have decided to do the most un-Japanese things defying their traditional culture when it comes to beauty and fashion. How do you think their parents and relatives feel about their behavior? How well do other cultures accept this trend and are any offended by it? “One thing is for sure, we’ve never seen these clown faces in America,” says a fellow on the streets of New York. “And I’ve seen plenty of radical fashion statements just look where I live,” the man continued. Another fellow New Yorker said “you know it’s really sad how people, usually females try to be something they aren’t, why can’t we all just be comfortable in our own skin?” These people may be right but they did get some influence from us.
The tanned skin, bright hair and makeup look in Japan has been termed Ganguro. Ganguro means black face in Japanese and describes this popular fashion style in cities of Japan. It has been around since the early 1990s but really came on the scene in the early 2000s. This style has many reasons for existence, from rebellion to commercialization exposure to American culture. Since the beginning of time many cultures including the Japanese have valued white or pale skin as beautiful. In turn many females in Japan have all looked the same with pale skin, long dark hair and natural colored makeup. Teens and young adults decided to rebel against this and made looks of their own influenced by a mixture of cultures to show their individuality, sexuality and self-expression. These girls are very much into to fashion as most are in Japan but instead they want to look like fake anime characters, Barbie or other dolls or the most influential, the hip hop culture such as black girls seen in rap music videos. The girls who tan so much they look like light skinned or caramel black girls claim it makes them look prettier and that they look healthy and even slim. They call the style of hip hop clothing “B-Style” meaning black for life. B-Style is a tribute to black culture including their music, dance and fashion. They idolize hip hop culture and want to be like them. The only problem is they aren’t really black faced; the only black on their face is mascara or eye liner. Most of their clothes no black people wear to this date.
There are also other Japanese fashion styles that seem to be out of the norm. Most include the elements of tanning and clothes like Nicki Minaj wears. Has society become so influenced by the media that it is ok to want to be somebody else other than ourselves?
Does this ring a bell? How about the Caucasians who like to tan so much they turn crisp orange or shocking stories of blacks who bleach their skin to either white or light skinned. Fashion magazines, music videos, makeup products and all have brainwashed us to believe we aren’t pretty unless we look like them or use these products or bought these clothes. There is a difference between self-expression and trying to be something or someone you are not.
Be happy with the skin you are in.
Traditional Artist of the Week: Hokusai
Katsushika Hokusai is a famous Japanese artist known for his ukiyo-e paintings. He was born in the year 1760 and died May 10th, 1849 at the age of 89. He started painting as early as the age of 6 and learning from his father who was a mirror-maker. At the age of 14 he became the apprentice of a wood-carver then left to work in the studio of Katsukawa Shunsho when he was 18. Shunsho was ukiyo-e painter who focused on yakusha-e prints illustrating Kabuki actors. Hokusai did his first prints of Kabuki actors as well then moved on to landscapes and images of daily life in Japan. His most famous work was a collection of 36 paintings called “Views of Mount Fuji” consisting in this group was the “Great Wave of Kanagawa” as featured above.
TU Asian Arts & Culture Center Exhibit (Iona Rozeal Brown: Afro-Asiatic Allegory)
It was very interesting art experience. Brown seems to have pop, graffiti and multi-cultural inspiration. I saw many paintings of Black and White or Japanese people with opposite colored faces and common features emphasizing the mixture of the different cultures. Some paintings were almost pornographic with almost totally naked females portraying the sexuality culture tries to make females express. There was a set of painting that expressed the hip hop culture of bling (large shining jewelry with diamonds). Black power Afros and Japanese samari’s and sumo wrestlers also appeared in the art work.
There were 2 pieces of art that were the most interesting to me. One was a picture of a demon that looked like a woman with long black hair and sharp nails and white skin. In the all white skin was hidden words like “color me,” “picture perfect,” “flawless,” skinny bouncy hair,” “buy now,” “clown lips,” and “look young now.” The message in the picture seems to be that society has made that image to be what is beautiful and sexy but it is really evil. The other piece was called “Oobie Kids” which showed half black and half Japanese girls and one guy with various mixed hair styles. The guy was wearing baggy sagging pants and timberland boots. The girls were hardly any clothes one with a fur on and nothing else it seemed and high heels that said sick and the other with a bikini top and short shorts on and Ugg like boots. There was also hidden words in the background of the picture that said “I wanna walk like you talk like you.” This piece is hard to unwind but i feel in means they are trying to be people they aren’t. Overall it was a lovely peaceful trip to the art gallery but at the same time I wish the artist was there to give her commentary on what her message was with these paintings.