Polka Dots: The World of Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama Pumkin, 1994, Naoshima, Japan

Kusama Pumpkin, 1994 Naoshima, Japan

For our October 2018 FAC workshop, we are venturing into the contemporary art world of Yayoi Kusama. Kusama’s work predates much of what is currently considered to be standards of the pop-art movement. Born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, Kusama has embraced the avant-garde since the early 1950’s. Once the hippie culture took hold in the US, Kusama found herself venturing west to New York City to further explore and express herself through her art.  Her works are primarily in conceptual sculpture, she is also well known for her painting, performance art, fashion, and more.

Kusama’s obsession with polka dots has been quite notable and she is often referred to as “the princess of polka dots.”  From her pumpkin sculptures, which began in 1994, to her Obliteration Rooms developed in 2002, Kusama’s use of dots is prolific. In addition to these exhibits, she brought her dots to her experimentations in fashion and performance art.

In her own words, Kusama says,

” Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment.”

Kusama was a vital part of New York’s avant-garde art scene from the late 1950’s through the early 1970’s. Her distinctive style was attributed to be a heavy influencer in what would later become known as Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and Pop Art.

Before and during their ascent into art world stardom, Georgia O’Keefe, Donald Judd, Joseph Cornell, and Andy Warhol, among others, were part of Kusama’s inner circle contemporaries. Together, they pushed each other to new ground in the world of contemporary art. At times, it became clear to Kusama that some of her contemporaries ripped off her work and found commercial and critical success with dealers, galleries, and collectors that preferred white male artists of the 1960’s.  To this day, she is said to have been marginalized by Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and Lucas Samara, to name a few.

Thankfully, Kusama’s work continued on.  Her work has earned places in the permanent collections of renown museums like the Tate, the Met, and MoMA.  In 2015, Christie’s reported that Kusama was the highest-selling living female artist.

In 1973, Kusama moved home to Japan and in 1977 entered the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill seeking treatment for mental health issues. She continues to reside there to this day. Her days are spent venturing across the street from the hospital to her studio to paint and create art.

As she nears the end of her eighth decade, she does not seem to show signs of stopping. She is as eccentric as ever, often donning technicolor wigs and wearing polka dot garments.  Even her wheelchair is decorated with polka dots.

Join us on Friday, October 18, 2018 from 3:00 – 5:00pm for our Friday Afternoon Crafts (FAC) as we pay homage to Yayoi Kusama by creating fall decorations using lots and lots of polka dots!