“I’ve always cared about appearances. The ideas for my work come from an inferiority complex and my experiences during adolescence. That is when everyone starts to think and worry about what others think of their looks,” says painter Naomi Okubo (born 1985), a graduate of Musashino Art University of Tokyo, who is currently in New York on a two-year fellowship offered by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs.
Her paintings are populated by shy girls who wouldn’t face the mirror, who hide behind books and flowers or simply stare at the floor and let their heavy, black bobs block their view. They are fragile and conscious, also mysterious, almost endearing.
“When I changed my own image, people changed their attitude towards me,” says Naomi. “They started to be concerned about me, and our relationship became better. This made me realise the power of fashion and my own fear of watchful eyes. In Tokyo, Japan, where I live, and in other developed nations, mass media provides us not only with images of created physical appearances but also images of lifestyles and ways of spending our time that happen to be artificial constructs. We admire these images and adopt them but we are overly exposed and consume these images a bit too much. We become confused about what is real and what is contrived. The consequence is that we become addicted to them. Although this seems like a little, personal issue, it is connected to greater problems and inconsistencies in society. In my work, I want to show my thoughts on these problems and inconsistencies as I have encountered and experienced them in my own life.”
All images used with permission.