Mako Idemitsu

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Mako Idemitsu
Tokyo, Japan
OccupationVisual Image Creator
Years active1974 – present
Spouse(s)Sam Francis (1966-1985)
WebsiteOfficial site

Mako Idemitsu (出光 真子, Idemitsu Mako, born 1940, Tokyo, Japan) is an experimental video art and film artist.[1]

Life and family[edit]

Mako Idemitsu was born in Ohta-ku, Japan and is the daughter of Japanese businessman and art collector Sazō Idemitsu, founder of Idemitsu Kosan, she attended Waseda University in Tokyo from 1958 to 1962, before relocating to New York in 1963.[2] Through her father's collecting Mako was introduced to Sam Francis and later moved into his California home in the early 1960s[3] before becoming his fourth wife in 1966. Mako was subsequently disinherited and disowned by her father.[4] Idemitsu has two sons from her marriage with Francis, Osamu and Shingo, it was as a young mother that she became a film and later video artist.

She was to find that even among the hippies and the liberated counterculture of the 1960s in California, she was to experience male chauvinism, different in nature from that of her homeland, but chauvinism nonetheless,[5] it was whilst searching for a role outside that of wife and mother, which she had fallen into, that she by impulse bought a Super 8 film camera and began her career as a film artist.

Mako Idemitsu returned to Japan with Francis and her sons in 1973, originally planning to stay in Japan for a year. In 1974 when Francis returned to the United States, Mako Idemitsu chose to remain in Japan and the couple would later divorce, with Francis marrying for a fifth time in 1985.

On the subject of her father, Mako Idemitsu said that he had a Confucian attitude towards women, and embraced a patriarchal view of the role of men and women that led to the belittling of his wife and daughters, she also said that he acted to deny them their individuality and independence.


Influence of technology[edit]

In the early 1970s, Mako Idemitsu was one of the pioneers of video art; the technical limitations of the equipment at the time had an influence on the direction of her work. Idemitsu first started to work in the United States initially with 8 mm film and then moving onto 16 mm film, she became interested in capturing the mood, quality and interplay of light and shadow.[5] When she switched to working with video, the inability of the video cameras of the time to capture the quality of light, led to the increasing use of narrative in her work.[5] On her return to Japan the cumbersomeness of the equipment and an inability to easily film outdoors led to her use of indoor one camera setups.[5]


Defined as feminist, Mako Idemitsu's work is a reflection not just on gender roles, but also on the nature of personal identity and self in society,[3] she also showed how the modern family in Japan was oppressing the identities of Japanese women.[6]

Mako Idemitsu's first films were home movies of her sons and of family life; this domestic setting, with the action revolving around family interactions, remains the main theme of her films.[3]

In her work a recurring motif is that of a television set featuring a disembodied torso, head or even just an eye; these disembodied characters, usually female, may act indifferently to her protagonists or may even actively oppresses them, and can be interpreted both at face value as the mother, daughter, or wife of the protagonist, or as a representation of their inner mind. For example, in Idemitsu's Great Mother trilogy, in as much as they are presented as the protagonist's mothers, these disembodied women also represent the super-ego[7] of the protagonist and are a personification of a lifetime of learned cultural values and societal norms, and are thus an internalized ideal from which the protagonist cannot escape.


  1. ^ "Mako Idemitsu". CLARA, National Museum of Women in the Arts. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  2. ^ Butler, Cornelia H. (2007). Mark, Lisa Gabrielle (ed.). Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution. Cambridge: MIT Press. p. 249. ISBN 0914357999.
  3. ^ a b c Leddy, Anne (August 26, 2011). "Treasures from the Vault: Sam Francis and Mako Idemitsu". The Getty Iris. Getty Research Institute. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  4. ^ "出光佐三系図 (Sazō Idemitsu family tree)". Retrieved November 13, 2014.-Japanese
  5. ^ a b c d 金子遊; 忠地裕子 (October 20, 2009). "出光真子(映画作家)インタビュー". 映画芸術. Retrieved November 13, 2014.-Japanese
  6. ^ "Women and photography | Grove Art". doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7002022250. Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  7. ^ "Titles by Mako Idemitsu". Electronic Arts Intermix. Retrieved November 13, 2014.

External links[edit]