The work displayed above is by Emma Shi, a student studying at Wenzhou-Kean University, located in Wenzhou, China in Zhejiang Province. She is a Junior studying accounting and one hell of an artist. She used inspiration and elements of design from Ikko Tanaka, a Japanese artist, and George Lois, an American art director.
When you see this art piece, one artist will come to mind, Ikko Tanaka. He created the original artwork in 1981 for the Nihon Buyo performance by the Asian Performing Arts Institute. His work collaborated modernism, of the time, with Japanese traditional culture. Tanaka’s work emphasizes the minimalism found in modernism using geometric shapes. With only using the basic shapes of squares, circles and triangles, he wonderfully fills the composition with recognizable figures. If you haven’t noticed yet, this image portrays a Japanese woman whose job is to entertain men. However, there are many more elements that may speak otherwise in this interpretation of Tanaka’s piece.
Like Tanaka, there is yet another recognizable artist found in this artwork. The shaving cream around the red circle, centrally located on the y-axis, suggesting a mouth, and the razer being raised as if to scrape the cream away, references George Lois, an American art director. Lois’ original image was for Esquire, using the Italian actress of the time, Virna Lisi, to promote the article “The masculinization of the American woman” by having her shave her face as a man does. Lois has always struck emotional cords in people through his highly visual work. With the combination of Tanaka and Lois embedded in this artwork, I believe there is now a deeper meaning within the piece, adopting two iconic elements that reach beyond aesthetic.
The forms that stayed consistent with Tanaka’s original is the geometric hair, salmon gradient, purple head band and the circular shape placed in the top-right of the composition. What makes this image unique is the borrowing of dimensional items such as the kimono, shaver, hand and Lois’ shaving cream. If you can tell, in the original Tanaka image, the woman’s skin has a pale tone to it, or lack of tone I should say. However, in this iteration, she has, what we Americans call, “some color.” This was necessary for the contrast between the cream and her face. Additionally, as Emma explained to me, "Because Asian women like to be white, I made the women have color to emphasize that you do not need makeup to entertain." The real subject matter here is not what you see, but what you feel. Is it not strange enough for a woman to be shaving? Emma took it a step further and introduced the differentiation between Western and Japanese/Asian cultures. Asian women are not the head of the household and, at least traditionally speaking, not the bread-winners. Her work introduces a concept known well to Americans, feminism. The pursuit of sex equality. Her execution is close to perfect. Her subject matter does what Lois seeks to do and strikes an emotional cord. This piece makes you feel empowered and above all, ambitious. The woman is known as a geisha, someone who entertains their clients by dancing, singing, and playing music. Now this may sound closely related to what we know as stripping, but don’t be fooled, these women did not need to succumb to sexual favors to gain “respect,” nor did they have to show any flesh. Women are known for sensuality and motherly qualities. However, what is lacked, in both art and conversation, is how logical, intelligent and dynamic they are. Emma captures the Japanese culture by using this figure in relation to the Western tradition of a man shaving his face, thus getting ready for a long working day, brilliantly. She captures the beauty of a woman whilst maintaining their dominance in the workforce and society, with the aid of George Lois. Watch out everyone, Emma’s a canon waiting to be lit.
If you want to see more of her work, check her insta: https://www.instagram.com/p/BN9yTqnD1CK/
Ikko Tanaka: http://www.designishistory.com/1960/ikko-tanaka/
George Lois (image #4): https://www.buzzfeed.com/briangalindo/12-iconic-george-lois-esquire-covers?utm_term=.foog3Pqgg#.lnAxp84xx