The great Japanese artist of femdom erotica, Namio Harukawa, died of cancer last week, 4/24/20, at the age of 72 or 73, and when I read the news (in the middle of a sleepless night) via a tweet posted by my colleague, the equally great British artist of femdom erotica, Sardax, I felt as if a part of my own consciousness had broken off and drifted away into eternity. Namio Harukawa dead? Not existing on this planet anymore? I felt similarly when I heard that Kirk Douglas, another important figure in my psyche, had passed away. Kirk?? Not amongst us anymore?? Hard to believe, yet it was true.
Namio Harukawa became most famous for his obsession with facesitting femmes, but to me personally that was never the focal point of his artistic achievement. It was the power of his women, psychologically and physically, that riveted my imagination in the many scenarios he depicted.
His work has been part of my femdom mindset and my aesthetic/erotic outlook for more than thirty years, ever since I first discovered him when I started editing CHEEKS magazine in late 1988, and I wrote a brief appreciation of him therein (and which you can read here). As his skill and artistry grew over the years, my admiration only increased. I wished I’d had a chance to meet and talk with him, but that never happened as he was in Japan and I was in America. In fact, in general he seemed a very elusive presence, except for his art–which became ubiquitous on the Web.
What I particularly always loved was how he portrayed an atmosphere of psychological ambiguity through his use of dramatic lighting that reminded me of what I saw in Japanese softcore erotic movies or films noir. Namio seemed to be saying (at least to me): yes, femdom is exciting, facesitting and plush domineering women et al are thrilling, but there can be an emotional price that comes with these fetishes, these passions, these pursuits. This message was in the lighting, the atmosphere often surrounding his characters–and I use the term “characters” deliberately, rather than just “figures”, because the men and women in Namio’s pictures seemed like characters: part of a continuing femdom psychodrama playing in his head, and through his works, in ours.
I feel similarly about Namio’s death to what I felt when I heard that the wonderful American composer Bernard Herrmann died in 1976. I’d admired Herrmann since I’d heard his score for Hitchcock’s North by Northwest in the early ’60s on tv, without then knowing his name; then I became a devoted fan after picking up his seminal recording, Music from Great Film Classics, in 1970; and his sudden death on Christmas Eve 1975 hours after completing his recording of the score for Taxi Driver was a sad shock. He was only in his mid-sixties and I, like all his fans, had looked forward to many more years of his fabulous creations.
Like Herrmann, Namio Harukawa was an artist not celebrated so much in the mainstream, but more someone revered in the specialist circles: fans of film music, and of femdom art. Herrmann and Harukawa were our artists, speaking especially to our unique interests, giants to us–and we knew they’d be giants to more people if they could only be discovered more widely and understood and judged on their own terms, not on some stuffy and condescending academic-critical musical or art history perspective. It is good to see, then, that Bernard Herrmann became more generally famous and celebrated after his death, and I have the feeling it will be the same with Namio Harukawa. His public recognition was broadened last year with a book and exhibit in Japan, and I think more salutes will follow as fans share their love for his work and they catch the eye of newcomers.
Rest in peace, Namio Harukawa, Master Artist of Femdom. Your work will live on forever.
For Sardax’s remembrance of Namio, please go here.