Aimai-no-bi (Ambiguous Beauty)

Yasumasa Morimura, Japanese, born 1951



Printed fan in Paulownia wood box


Overall: 11 1/2 × 1 9/16 × 1 in. (29.2 × 4 × 2.6 cm)

Case: 12 13/16 × 12 13/16 × 1 3/8 in. (32.5 × 32.5 × 3.5 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Gift of Trevor Fairbrother and John T. Kirk

Aimai-no-bi (Ambiguous Beauty) © 1995 Yasumasa Morimura. All rights reserved.



Place Made: Japan, East Asia, Asia


20th century

Object Name

Mixed Media

Research Area

Mixed Media

Not on view


Inscribed, in ink or printed, top of box, slightly off center: [not English]; on reverse: signed, within the matrix; Morimura


For Aimai-no-bi (Ambiguous Beauty), conceptual photographer Yasumasa Morimura donned a blond wig, red lips, and prosthetic breasts to reenact a 1953 Playboy photo of Marilyn Monroe with his own biologically male body. In his works, Morimura often transforms himself into iconic subjects drawn from Western art and popular culture. He has said about beginning to work with Western archetypes: "I was trying to leap across binaries of categorization—masculine and feminine, East and West—as well as ideas such as the feminization of the East, Asia becoming synonymous with woman, the feminine mystique. I [was] playing around with tropes of what is perceived as sexy and exotic to the West."

Morimura’s aesthetic sensitivities were shaped, in part, by his youth in postwar Japan, which was saturated by Western visual and popular culture. By printing the image on a fan traditionally used by Japanese women as a fashion accessory, Morimura draws a connection between Western and Asian femininity and beauty ideals. As the fan opens and closes, it playfully makes the image appear and disappear—a peep- show effect that connects Playboy to earlier pornographic imagery.

From the 2022 exhibition Embodied: Artist as Medium, curated by Isadora Italia, Campus Engagement Manager

Course History

WGSS 10.01, Sex, Gender, and Society, Douglas Moody, Fall 2019

WGSS 10.02, Sex, Gender, and Society, Kristen O'Rourke, Fall 2019

WGSS 10.03, Sex, Gender, and Society, Jenn Sargent, Fall 2019

WGSS 10.04, Sex, Gender, and Society, Susan Brison, Fall 2019

WGSS 10.01, Sex, Gender, and Society, Susan Overton, Winter 2020

Exhibition History

"Collecting and Sharing: Trevor Fairbrother, John T. Kirk, and the Hood Museum of Art", Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, August 22-December 6, 2015.

Embodied: Artist as Medium, Isadora Italia, MALS Class of 2022, Sol LeWitt Wall, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, October 1–December 17, 2022.

Publication History

Collecting and Sharing: Trevor Fairbrother, John T. Kirk, and the Hood Museum of Art, with contributions by Katherine Hart, Michael R. Taylor, John O'Reilly and James Tellin, Trevor Fairbrother and John T. Kirk, Hanover, New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2015, p.100-101, no. 58.

Published References

Guy Trebay, "Is that for Me?" Village Voice, December 19, 1995, p. 20.


Peter Norton Family Christmas Project; given to Trevor J. Fairbrother, Christmas 1995; collection of John T. Kirk and Trevor J. Fairbrother, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, 1995; given to present collection, 2010.

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