Women artists: Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama (1929– ) is considered by some to be the greatest Japanese artist of our times. Although her initial training was in the traditional nihonga art style, she became frustrated with it and wanted a change. She wrote to Georgia O'Keeffe, who encouraged her to move to New York. The Avant-Garde scene was thriving at the time, and Kusama fell right in with it. Her art became provocative, pushing the edges of what was considered "acceptable". She staged public sex, painting nude people with her signature polka-dots. Her art was, and is, psychedelic.

Kusama's images of dots and lines stem from hallucinations caused by mental illness. Her illness eventually compelled her to return to Japan. She has been very open about her mental health struggles. She says art is what keeps her alive.

In her visions, she sees dots and patterns that multiply until she feels "obliterated". In her art, dots cover people, walls, animals, etc., removing their usual outlines so that they disappear into the dotted background. You can see an example in the image above where Kusama herself becomes a part of the whole red-and-white dotted scene. She explains: "Polka dots can't stay alone. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environments."

Among Kusama's most popular works are her Infinity Mirror Rooms. With mirrors and special lighting, the rooms create a virtual experience of infinity and unity with all.

What is Yayoi Kusama trying to express in her art? Do Homework
What is your opinion of her work? How do you feel about avant-garde art in general? Do Homework
Is it important for artists (or musicians, poets, etc.) to have training in traditional forms? Why or why not? Do Homework
In your opinion, is there any link between mental illness and creativity? Do Homework