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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Kathy Aoki

San Francisco Bay Area, CA
USA

Kathy Aoki received her M.F.A. in printmaking from Washington University in St. Louis in 1994. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of SFMoMA, the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, the Harvard University Art Museums, and the City of Seattle. Past exhibitions have been held in San Francisco; Las Vegas; Seattle; Minneapolis; NYC; Kobe, Japan; and Quito, Ecuador.

Past grants include a strategic planning grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI), an Artist Fellowship from the Arts Council Silicon Valley, a public art grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Art on Market Street Program, and a Women’s Studio Workshop Artist Book Production Grant.

Aoki has participated in artist residencies at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito; the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley; Djerassi in Woodside; the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire; and the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris. Her recent series, “The Museum of Historical Makeovers,” includes pieces inspired by her residency in Paris.

Aoki currently lives and works in Santa Clara, California, where she is an Assistant Professor of Studio Art at Santa Clara University.

Feminist Artist Statement

In her recent “Museum of Historical Makeovers” series, Aoki takes on the aesthetics of historical illustration and ancient artifacts, while preserving her favorite themes of gender, beauty and cute culture consumerism. In her invented, pseudo-museum experience set in the future (the early 4th millennium), Aoki presents us with imagery that looks antique but actually depicts current beauty treatments and pop culture figures.

In her own artistic makeover, Aoki creates hand-printed etchings after famous surgical paintings by Eakins and Rembrandt. The scenes, drawn with crosshatching and aquatint grays, depict currently popular-yet-preposterous beauty procedures such as the Brazilian waxing method and anal bleaching.

Similarly, Aoki’s French drawings have the look of illustrations from French philosopher Diderot’s Encyclopedie, a mid-eighteenth century multi-volume publication, which attempted to explain everything. Aoki implies that the drawings, which feature beauty processes such as lip-plumping and lower back tattooing, may have been intended to be part of Diderot’s publication, but were lost - only to be discovered over a thousand years later and acquired by the “Museum of Historical Makeovers.”

One of the most creative installations in Aoki’s faux museum is the archeological “discovery” of the Egyptian style burial tombs of pop singer Gwen Stefani and her back-up dancers, the Harajuku girls. Aoki elevates Stefani’s status to pharaoh; false artifacts, such as alabaster coasters and “stone” tablets, are covered with custom hieroglyphics. Aoki even goes so far as to provide educational guides that explain the symbols on the “artifacts” and provides analysis of the Stefani cartouche. The Stefani archeological installation also features a mini-tomb room, where viewers can peek in to see the Stefani sarcophagus. The museum-style labeling, maps and objects all poke fun at pop culture and beauty consumerism.

Prior to the “Museum of Historical Makeovers,” Aoki focused on a series entitled “The Construction of Modern Girlhood,” which featured anime-style girl construction workers who enslaved teddy bears. These “Girlhood” works on paper, sculptures, wall installation, and prints created a visual metaphor describing how the media affects girls. Other past themes in Aoki’s work include “Women as Superheroes Based on Their Vocational Skills,” Women with Tools as a Phallic Metaphor,” and “Men’s Housekeeping.”

<p>Chia Gwen</p>

Chia Gwen

CHIA GWEN (SPHINX WITH PHARAOH’S BEARD AND BOB), 2062AD

Terracotta with mixed glazes

This artifact was part of the original Gwen Stefani Mortuary Temple excavation which began in 2468 AD, but it was subsequently lost in storage in the Getty Museum’s high-tech, underground cryogenic storage vault. It was later learned that the director of the Getty had the audacity to remove the Chia Gwen from storage in order to grow herbs and sprouts on the desk in her office. Once the authenticity of this priceless artifact was verified, she was summarily fired from her position in 2994. Immediately the world’s best art restoration clinicians did their best to restore the piece to its original condition, removing the dirt and roots subjected to the artifact by the director. Consequently, this piece is one of the only Stefani burial artifacts that is not in the typical pristine condition.

Known throughout her life for trying to reduce her carbon footprint, Pharaoh Gwen Stefani would plant fruits and vegetables in the back acres of one of the estates she shared with husband Gavin Rosedale and their two children, Kingston and Zuma Nesta Rock. As such, the Chia Gwen figure makes perfect sense for her preparation for the afterlife, enabling her to continue to grow her own sprouts.

Chia Gwen

CHIA GWEN (SPHINX WITH PHARAOH’S BEARD AND BOB), 2062AD

Terracotta with mixed glazes

This artifact was part of the original Gwen Stefani Mortuary Temple excavation which began in 2468 AD, but it was subsequently lost in storage in the Getty Museum’s high-tech, underground cryogenic storage vault. It was later learned that the director of the Getty had the audacity to remove the Chia Gwen from storage in order to grow herbs and sprouts on the desk in her office. Once the authenticity of this priceless artifact was verified, she was summarily fired from her position in 2994. Immediately the world’s best art restoration clinicians did their best to restore the piece to its original condition, removing the dirt and roots subjected to the artifact by the director. Consequently, this piece is one of the only Stefani burial artifacts that is not in the typical pristine condition.

Known throughout her life for trying to reduce her carbon footprint, Pharaoh Gwen Stefani would plant fruits and vegetables in the back acres of one of the estates she shared with husband Gavin Rosedale and their two children, Kingston and Zuma Nesta Rock. As such, the Chia Gwen figure makes perfect sense for her preparation for the afterlife, enabling her to continue to grow her own sprouts.

Stela (Angel Harajuku girl)

STELA, 2065AD

Carved limestone

This carved commemorative stone tablet, known as a stela, tells the story of how Angel (of the Harajuku Girls) became part of Pharaoh Gwen Stefani’s fantasy world. The glyphs explain her supernatural experience in an “Amoeba record store,” which involves aisles turning into bushes and Gwen and the other Harajuku girls chasing a white rabbit.

This story was verified by historians who specialize in web-archiving. After pouring through hours of video footage from YouTube (an internet site of the early 21st century that allowed people from any background and with any degree of talent or ability to upload and display footage of their own creations ranging from songs, to choreography, to cinematography), the historians found a video clip in which Angel recounts the story carved here.

Canopic Jars (of Gwen Stefani)

GWEN STEFANI CANOPIC JARS, 2061-2063AD

Carved sandstone

In ancient Egyptian traditions, canopic jars hold the mummified organs of the deceased as a way of preserving them, and guarding them, for use in the afterlife. The four heads of the Egyptian canopic jars correspond to the funerary deities known as the Sons of Horus and each holds a specific organ. The baboon-headed god, Hapy, guards the lungs; the human-headed Imsety guards the liver; the Jackal-headed Duamutef guards the stomach and upper intestines; and the falcon-headed Qebehsenuef guards the lower intestines.

Gwen Stefani was still alive when preparations for her tomb began. She was fascinated with Egyptian culture after viewing the Tut Exhibition in 2005, and she always loved the Bangles’ song “Walk Like an Egyptian.” But, when it came to the true canopic jar function, she was quoted as rejecting the concept because it was “icky.” Therefore, she made preparations for her jars to hold memories and trinkets, not organs.

*Please click on the audio guide at right for more information about these jars.

Gwen Stefani Grand Burial Exhibition (a.k.a. the “Tomb Room”)

GWEN STEFANI GRAND BURIAL EXHIBITION

(Temporarily Closed)

Peephole view of the Gwen Stefani Grand Burial Exhibition room at the Museum of Historical Makeovers. This exhibition space featured numerous authenticated artifacts from the Gwen Stefani Memorial Temple, discovered in 2468 A.D. Unfortunately, the gallery is closed while the vitrine that protects the G-4 Stefani Sarcophagus is being repaired.

*Please click on the audio tour file at right to hear more about the artifacts in this room.

The Brazilian

THE BRAZILIAN, c. late 1800s

Etching

Made in the Atelier Wenceslas (Wenceslas art studio), by an unknown hand, this etching bears a striking similarity to Thomas Eakin’s The Gross Clinic (1875).

The etching features Dr. Samuel Ekeln as he pauses for a moment before continuing with the inherently intricate and convoluted waxing procedure known as “The Brazilian.” Note the figure at left in the composition who is overcome by the intensity of the treatment.

Tatouage Bas du Dos (or Lower Back Tattoo)

TATOUAGE BAS DU DOS (or “Lower Back Tattoo”), mid 1700s

Drawing on paper (India ink, watercolor)

This exquisite drawing depicts beauty implements and procedures of the 1700s. Originally intended for Diderot’s Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers, this fine example of French artistry never made it into the first printing of the Paris edition in 1751, or any other edition for that matter. As it turns out, the drawing, along with several like it, were discovered missing just before the publication. Several suspects were named in the disappearance (including Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s mistress, a stock boy, and a press worker who may have stolen the drawings for his 18-year-old daughter), but no charges were pressed nor were the artworks recovered. It was not until a recent estate auction in Lyon, France that the images resurfaced and were subsequently donated to the Museum of Historical Makeovers.

Le Sac a Main le Plus “Juicy” (or the Juiciest Handbag)

LE SAC A MAIN LE PLUS “JUICY” (or “The Juiciest Handbag”), mid 1700s

Lithograph

This exquisite lithograph depicts beauty implements and procedures of the 1700’s. Originally intended for Diderot’s Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers, this example of fine French artistry never made it into the first printing of the Paris edition in 1751, or any other edition for that matter. As it turns out, the print, along with several like it, were discovered missing just before the publication. Several suspects were named in the disappearance (including Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s mistress, a stock boy, and a press worker who may have stolen the prints for his 18-year-old daughter), but no charges were pressed nor were the artworks recovered. It was not until a recent estate auction in Lyon, France that the prints resurfaced and were subsequently donated to the Museum of Historical Makeovers.

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