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Art HERstory: Yayoi Kusama

Art HERstory: Yayoi Kusama

Everyone isn’t meant to be creative. Luckily for society, there are a few ‘creative geniuses’ scattered among the workaholic drones of the world. Japanese avant-garde sculptor, painter, and novelist Yayoi Kusama (1929 – ) sees the world covered in what she calls ‘infinity nets.’ The never-ending collections of polka dots are Yayoi’s signature touch, and quite honestly what assisted her in gaining the fame she’s earned throughout her life. In my opinion, she is one of the geniuses that come once in a blue moon despite her mental illness.

'The Gleaming Lights of the Souls.' An endless landscape of darkness scattered with dots of light. How Yayoi accomplished this, I have no idea. All I can do is respect the quality and complexity of this piece.

Since childhood Yayoi suffered from hallucinations. She claims she was physically abused by her mother as a child which resulted in her mental state and thoughts of suicide. To escape reality, she turned to art. She began tagging walls, floors, and canvases with a sea of polka dots. The patterns came direct from her hallucinations.

“…a polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement… Polka dots are a way to infinity.” – Yayoi Kusama

At the age of 27, a move to NYC took place. Yayoi’s talent quickly earned her a spot in the inner circle of the avant-garde. She earned the nickname Polka Dot Princess in the 1960s. She was a serious artist and people recognized her raw talent. Its even rumored she gave Andy Warhol a run for his money. The two were in a tug-o-war for media attention.

This polka dot pumpkin can be found on the art island Naoshima in Okayama.

Outside of her decorations on inanimate objects, Yayoi also publicly protested. She was totally against the Vietnam War and used nude models riddled with colored dots to demonstrate her opposition. Just to give you a better idea of how serious she was, these gatherings were held in places like Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. Pretty serious I’d say.

Yayoi's passion for art stemmed from her troubled childhood. She doodled constantly as a child and still does so as an adult.

Unfortunately, the traumatic childhood Yayoi endured began to interfere with her work. She moved back to Japan in 1973 when she shifted gears and began to write instead of paint/sculpt.  She voluntarily checked herself into a mental institution where she has lived and continued to work sine the mid-1970s. Her personal studio is only blocks from the hospital. Yayoi  lives for art. She is often quoted saying: “If it were not for art, I would have killed myself a long time ago.” Now that’s dedication.

'Narcissus Garden.' Apparently polka dots don't have to be 2-D.

Yayoi Kusama’s success during the 1960s carried over into the 21st century. In 2008 Christies New York, a leading art dealer, sold one of her paintings for $5.1 million. Thats a record for a living female artist. Although she may not be able to see the success of her art firsthand, there’s no denying she busted her tush and deserves everything she’s accomplished.

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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