by Elissa Watters, guest blogger
The signature polka dots of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama may look cheerful, but Kusama’s road to success has by no means been easy. Kusama was born in Matsumoto city, in Nagano Prefecture, Japan in 1929. In high school, Kusama began to be plagued by hallucinations; the visions terrified her, but she used sketching as an outlet to ease her anxiety and fear. In the end, it was these hallucinations that prompted Kusama’s interest in art (drawing first, painting later) and serve—to this day—as her main source of inspiration. In fact, the illusions were probably the origin of Kusama’s signature polka dots, for a sketch done in 1939 indicates that she “saw” her mother with dots on her face and kimono.
Kusama moved to New York, then the center of the art world, in 1957. There, she met, collaborated with, and influenced many key figures of contemporary art, including Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, and Joseph Cornell. In 1959, her work “Infinity Net” earned her much recognition and praise, and established her as a prominent contemporary artist.
Simulation of Kusama's “Yellow Trees” construction site W 14th Street, NYC.
In 1973, Kusama returned to Japan. She commutes daily from the psychiatric care facility, where she has resided since 1977, to her studio in Tokyo, where she ceaselessly creates works that keep her at the center of the art world’s attention. Museums across the globe continue to exhibit the 83-year old’s work. To coincide with her current exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York, Kusama’s piece “Yellow Trees” is in the process of being printed on a netting which will cover a condo construction site at 345 West 14th Street. The installation is part of the city’s Urban Canvas project and will remain in place, in view of all who walk the High Line, until the exhibition at the Whitney ends on September 30. At the moment, Kusama is also collaborating with designer Louis Vuitton, inspiring a new fashion of polka dot bags, sunglasses, shoes, coats and more.
To learn more about this entertaining and influential artist, consider reading her autobiography, “Infinity Net.”
Mentioned in this article @whitneymuseum, @LouisVuitton