Geisha And The Skeleton Visual Analysis

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AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) has taken victim of a multitude of lives in the United States during the 20th century. Many believed that this epidemic was a sign of judgement in relation to the religions they worship. Others viewed this stigma as a curse and that revealing themselves would shame themselves for the rest of their lives. Masami Teraoka is a Japanese-born American artist who began to focus his works on the AIDS epidemic after a close friend’s baby contracted HIV. His artwork, Tale of 1000 Condoms/Geisha and Skeleton, was created in 1989 in the United States. The entirety of this piece of art is eleven by seven feet and is painted upon a canvas with watercolor and sumi-e ink. Teraoka was influenced by America’s favoritism …show more content…
Within the painting itself, Teraoka writes a dialogue of a conversation between the geisha and the skeleton. In a rough summary, it tells how the geisha is surprised to see the skeleton again. The skeleton explains that it is indeed him again and how he took the subway instead of the train due to him believing that people feared him aboard one. The skeleton is meant to portray a regular customer for the geisha, but instead the skeleton symbolizes death or in this context, AIDS/HIV. There is also a relationship between how the gender of death is always made to be male and how lesbians have the lowest instances of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases. There is also a portrayal of how the geisha raises her eyebrow in a tense manner. The skeleton is already confirmed a customer from the past, implying that the geisha may already be HIV-positive due to ‘death’. The clothes and accessories the geisha wears have some significant relationships to the idea of AIDS/HIV. Her hair ornaments may seems to have an appearance of a tortoise shell, but it may actually reference Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions that appears on AIDS victims. On her yukata, it displays a living tree called the ginkgo. The ginkgo symbolize longevity and being able to defy death itself. After the atomic bombing in Hiroshima during World War II, the ginkgo trees still survived despite …show more content…
In the past, geishas services their customers in order to make a living. Even if they understood the threat of AIDS back then, they couldn’t simply stop doing their job or else they wouldn’t be able to sustain themselves. The skeleton in the artwork is a clear indication of AIDS and how it inflicts fear to the lives it meets every day. The geisha has an expression of surprise, which is depicted by the raising of her eyebrows, but she also shows an expression of acceptance towards her fate. In the text, the geisha exhibits her surprise towards ‘death’ returning to her again. She is entrapped in a situation where she must work to keep up her standard of living and in order to do so, she must service ‘death’ himself. She steels her resolve as she confronts death and readies a few condoms in hope that it prevents the disease from grasping her body. The depiction of the ginkgo on her kimono also backs up her resolve to go through with her actions to see the light of another day. Teraoka gives his viewers the desperate struggle a select few must go through in order to live. Even if AIDS/HIV can shorten one’s lifespan considerably, it is better than dying from starvation or in a random alleyway. After researching this piece of art, Teraoka has given me the feeling and

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