USA, glazed stoneware, 1985
On display in room 142
The contemporary Japanese-American ceramicist Akio Takamori creates pieces which draw upon traditional Japanese forms to represent the human body in a variety of whimsical and unsettling positions. This vase, in the shape of a flattened oval, represents two nude women embracing each other. Its subject matter recalls erotic shunga prints, as does the style in which the figures are outlined; while the shape of the vessel resembles an enlarged netsuke (a type of carved fastener for clothing).
Looking at this vase poses the question, ‘what makes an object “queer”?’ It undoubtedly has erotic connotations – but for whose gaze and whose pleasure? Does any representation of same-sex nudity or physical intimacy automatically make an object a part of LGBTQ history? Or does it depend upon who is producing, purchasing or viewing the object?