TUESDAY MUSEDAY – Yayoï Kusama
“The Priestess of Polka Dots”, a.k.a. Yayoï Kusama, is an avant-garde artist and writer of Japanese descent. After moving to New York in 1957, (with an extra push from Georgia O’Keefe), her artwork went from 2D to… infinity. While painting still remains one of Kusama’s daily artistic mediums, her forte lies in installation and sculpture. Melding aspects of her psychological past and present, with attributes of feminine, minimal, surreal, and abstract expressionist art, it is anirrefutable understatement to call Yayoï Kusama a pioneer of conceptual artistic expression – but I’ll let you decide. Today, we’re going to explore Yayoï Kusama’s obsessions with repetition and infinity – and why these obsessions have become mine, too.
“In this universe, the moon, the sun, each and every star, my own life, they are all a single polka dot among billions.”
Turning childhood hallucinations into prolific permutations
Yayoï Kusama entered this blue cerulean “polka dot” at the dawn of WWII, in the city of Matsumoto, Japan. Despite her family’s affluence, her childhood was speckled with thick clouds of psychological trauma. Between her father’s promiscuity and her mother’s physical abuse, Kusama’s upbringing was not all sunshine and rainbows. However, as soon as she hit double digits, the dark clouds permeating her brain transformed into ubiquitous, vivid hallucinations of “flashes of light, auras, or dense fields of dots.” These hallucinations ultimately became intrinsic fodder for her artistic spirit and soon thereafter, produced her first renowned series, entitled Infinity Nets.
To infinity and beyond…
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to enter infinity? To go beyond, the beyond? Fortunately, if you answered yes, the Priestess of Polka Dots has brought us light years closer to making this a reality, in an installation series known as Infinity Mirrors. From Phalli’s Field to Love Forever to her most recent, All The Eternal Love I Have For The Pumpkins, her ability to transport you through the cosmos [of her mind] and the looking glass of our own proves how prolific of an artist she still is today.
Sublime in the confined
After fully embracing and [in a way] “self-obliterating” herself into the counter-culture movement of the 1960s – organizing “outlandish happenings”, writing a provocative antiwar letter to Nixon, opening a gay social club (kok), and expanding her artistic repertoire into the realms of film and fashion – she looped back to Japan in 1973, full circle. At this time, she put down the paintbrush and picked up the pen…her writing becoming an anchor for her despondent metanoia. Finally, Yayoï Kusama checked herself in 1977 into the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill, where she has been living in sublime (quasi) confinement ever since.
Want to know more? Here’s a goodie on the fly. Otherwise, we strongly recommend perusing the following reads and site:
Between Heaven and Earth: The Literary Art of Yayoi Kusama, Alexandra Munroe, an extensive review of Yayoï Kusama’s Literary Art originally published in Love Forever, Yayoi Kusama, 1958-1968.
Hustler’s Grotto, Yayoi Kusama, a kaleidoscopic plunge into the underworld of Christopher Street.
Yayoï Kusama Artist Page, for all things Polka Dotty.
Edited by Marc Louis-Boyard.