Japanese artist and writer Yayoi Kusama was born in March 22, 1929 in Matsumoto, Nagano. During her childhood, Kusama’s mother was physically abusive towards her and her father was the type of man who would sleep around with other women, despite being with Kusama’s mother. Often, her mother would send Kusama to spy on her father where she would see her father in the act. This later on in her life made Kusama desicies men and hate sex.
According to Yayoi Kusama herself she started painting at a very young age. Around the age of 10, Kusama started to have hallucinations which would included fields of dots and flashes of light 10, and flowers that would speak to her 11. This would later carry into her later art works and distinct style which has self named, self obliteration 12. At the age of 19, Kusama went on to pursue a formal art education at the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts where she studied Nihonga painting. Dissatisfied with the style she was being taught, Kusama started to gravitate towards more European and American avant garde styles. In her earlier works, Kusama primarily used gouache, watercolor and oils on paper. But later move to covering other surfaces such as canvases, walls, floors, household objects and eventually the human body.
After years of living in Tokyo, Japan, Kusama decided at the age of 27 that she was going to move to and live in the United States, more specifically, Seatlle 10. However, after a year she moved to New York City. While she lived in the U.S., Kusama quickly gained high praise and status for her work and became a distinguished artist of the avant garde movement.
During the 60’s became very interesting. This was around the time her more well known mirror rooms started to gain popularity.25 The mirror rooms consisted of room sized installations which included music, light, and mirrors that created an illusion of an infinite space. With the nature of the 60’s, the Vietnam War was a hot topic with many protests against it; which is no surprise that Kusama herself was not for it either. In fact, in one of many of her protest, she wrote an open letter to President Nixon claiming that she would have ‘vigorous sex’ with him if he ended the war 16. In the latter of the 60’s, Yayoi Kusama’s work became more performance based, with her polka dots transferring from the canvas to skin. Frequently Kusama would be in ill health due to overworking herself. Finally, in 1973, Kusama returned home to Japan.
During this time, she wrote poetry, short stories and novels. She would later become an art dealer 29, but only a few years business ended after she checked herself into the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill, where she still resides today, on her own terms of course. Although she does permanently reside at the hospital, Kusama still continues to produce art in her studio not far from the hospital 30. Even at the age of 88, Kusama continues to produce works. Earlier this year, her very own museum, Yayoi Kusama Museum, opened in Tokyo. 41Throughout the years, Kusama art forms have included visual arts, performances, fashion, writing, and film. She has received various awards including Asahi Prize in 2001, 65, Ango Award (2014),and the Praemium Imperiale, in which she was the first Japanese women to receive it. Kusama’s style can be categorized Minimalist and Pop Art.
Elements which seem to be consistent throughout many of her pieces are various circle sizes, which she uses instead of value to create depth, two dominant colors, various line weights and shapes in her 2d work, and light in her 3d work and installations. Two of Yayoi Kusama’s well known works include Pumpkin and Infinity Mirrored Room: The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. Created in 1994, Pumpkin is a giant outdoor sculpture which resides in Japan at the Benesse Art Site. The structure is bright yellow with black polka dots varying in size. Instead of shading to create depth in her pieces, Kusama utilizes the different sizes of of the polka dots to create an illusion of depth.
This structure can be viewed from all sides. Media used for this piece includes Acrylic on ceramics. The artist describes this piece as her alter ego, being that it was a marriage of her two obsessions, polka dots and pumpkins.