More about 31 Flavors Invading Japan
31 Flavors Invading Japan is Teraoka's version of "Baskin Robbins meets your friendly neighborhood Gentleman’s Club"
Eating ice cream can make anyone look 20 years younger. A middle-aged man. A strict teacher. A convict. An ex-convict, even. This woman, however, looks downright deranged. Who needs Lent? Seeing this woman feast on your favorite dairy treat would be enough to make you give it up forever. Or would it?
Masami Teraoka, the mastermind behind this sensitively rendered yet heavily sex-infused watercolor painting, teaches us a little something about how inseparable we are from objects.
We know it’s bad for us, yet we buy loads of it anyway. The “it” here includes sex, violence, glamour, fake heroism, revenge, and the afterlife—all the things we Americans can’t seem live without.
After moving to Los Angeles from Japan in the '60s, Teraoka found a total clash between LA’s trendiness and Japan’s steadfast loyalty to old things. To tackle this, Teraoka resuscitated the ukiyo-e style of Hokusai and combined it with the graphic mantra of Pop Art. (Imagine your grandpa wearing rainbow pants, a “Pussy Power” shirt, and socks with sandals. Or...don’t.)
Ukiyo means “floating world,” while e means “image.” So ukiyo-e paintings depict images of fantasy or desire. That means lots of nature, sex, and things that—pick a fetish, any fetish—remind you of it. Catfish, for example. Or feminine beauts that are subservient, polite, and wrapped neatly in kimonos. The woman in 31 Flavors, on the other hand, is brazenly sexual, draped carelessly in robes, and almost demonic with her unbound hair. No-Shave November or not, Teraoka’s stand-in for the Western woman has also got a little peach fuzz going on in her underarms. Not to mention a tongue for days.
Keep in mind, though, that Teraoka is not criticizing a woman’s right to display her body however she wants. Rather, he paints these things from an “essentially detached, nonpartisan vantage point.”
Teraoka exaggerates the conflicts to keep his message as broad as possible. He takes Japanese symbols with established meanings and jazzes them up with modern embellishments. In 31 Flavors, the kimono becomes a conduit of sexual appeal. The rice bowl becomes junk food, almost as easily accessible as the woman’s bare skin. And the geisha becomes a dirty blonde, simultaneously indifferent to and pleased with the audience’s voyeurism.
Teraoka neither advocates nor discourages a return to past values. He simply paints what sees. So keep eating that ice cream, girl, and enjoy it while you can.
- Foldes, Michael. "Masami Teraoka/Artist-Interview." Ragazine.CC. Accessed June 12, 2017. http://old.ragazine.cc/2014/11/masami-teraoka-interview/.
- Kadvany, John. "Los Angeles Invading Japan." The ThreePenny Review, no. 2 (Summer 1980): 26.
- Milford, Mary-Ann. "Asian/American Art: A/Part of/From the Postmodern Dialectic." India International Centre Quarterly 24, no. 4 (Winter 1997): 90-124.