By Susan Wheeler
A courtesan with a supply of condoms, anticipating the evening's assignation, sits in a wooden bathtub surrounded by text which reflects her thoughts—the package is too hard to open, scissors are needed but that’s too much trouble, the odor of the spermacide is strong, etc. *
By introducing unexpected objects (condoms) and unexpected text (complaints) into the traditional 19th century Japanese print form ukiyo-e, artist Masami Teraoka highlights contemporary social issues through parody and elegant wit. The series on AIDS dates from 1986 when Teraoka learned that a friend’s child had developed Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome from a blood transfusion.
Geisha in Bath, a forty-six color woodblock print made from thirty-four blocks, was published in 2008 after a watercolor on canvas (108 x 81 inches) completed in 1988, one of many large scale paintings in the widely exhibited AIDS series.
The print was recently acquired by the Collection of Prints and Drawings, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library through the John F. Fulton Fund. The collection, related to medicine and health, originates from the bequest of Clements C. Fry, 1955.
*See Howard A. Link, Waves and Plagues: The Art of Masami Teraoka. Honolulu: The Contemporary Museum, 1988, pp.64-5 for further discussion of this composition.