Naoai by Phil Couture

13th Annual ARC Salon (2017-2018)

Phil Couture



45.4 × 33.34 cm | 17 3/4 × 13 in

Oil on linen

“In Kyoto, Japan, the majority of actively working geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) carry the torch of traditional Japanese culture. It takes years of commitment and training for maiko to become geisha and many of the young women become discouraged and quit before they do. Since I moved to Kyoto in 2012, I have been fascinated by geisha culture. Their path is unconventional and these women reject many of societies norms to become skilled musicians, performers and ‘women of art.’ To quote Liza Dalby, ‘Whatever is special about geisha and imbues them with a certain mystique arises because their lives are set apart from everyday society. Today, the walls of their world are art and discipline.’ This is a portrait of Naoai, who has been a maiko since 2015. While she’s adorned with a beautiful kimono and ornaments and exudes a stoic demeanor, there is an air of uncertainty about her future as a geisha.” – PHIL COUTURE