Artist
Yayoi Kusama
Japanese artist and writer

Disclaimer

Images

We do our best to use images that are open source. If you feel we have used an image of yours inappropriately please let us know and we will fix it.

Accuracy

Our writing can be punchy but we do our level best to ensure the material is accurate. If you believe we have made a mistake, please let us know.

Visits

If you are planning to see an artwork, please keep in mind that while the art we cover is held in permanent collections, pieces are sometimes removed from display for renovation or traveling exhibitions.

Yayoi Kusama
Japanese artist and writer

Sr. Editor

Yayoi Kusama is a pioneer of the avant-garde, and lives the weird life to match. 

When the art scene was dominated by men like Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko, Kusama held her own with the big boys in New York as a female Japanese immigrant.  And that wasn’t the only obstacle she had to overcome.  Raised in an ultra-conservative family, Kusama’s art career in Japan consisted of an art school with a strict regime, where tradition and the master-disciple relationship were prized over individual expression.  Bad girl Kusama hated feeling trapped, and once said, “When I think of my life in Kyoto, I feel like vomiting.” We feel you there. Rules? Barf!

Once in New York, she took her rightful place amongst the most famous creators of the time, forging friendships with other female artists like Eva Hesse, her neighbor, and Georgia O’Keeffe, who became a cherished pen pal.  Kusama got lots of attention for organizing crazy “happenings” (artistic performance events) which often involved naked people covered in her trademark painted dots, reveling about in public places like Central Park and the New York Stock exchange.  Not all of the attention she got for these hijinks was good of course, North America has its fair share of conservative killjoys, too.  It’s easy to see stiff-shirted stock brokers troubled by the hippies dancing around to bongos outside the office, especially when the ringleader is holding a sign that says, “OBLITERATE WALL STREET MEN WITH POLKA DOTS ON THEIR NAKED BODIES”. An open letter she wrote to Richard Nixon offering to have sex with him if he stopped the Vietnam War also caused a press frenzy (lol).

Her publicity stunts caused the art world to question if some of her mental issues were exaggerated to create an aura of fanatic creativity, and to drive interest in her public persona.  See, Kusama has cited the inspiration for her psychedelic, obsessively patterned oeuvre to the visual and aural hallucinations she’s experienced since childhood. She’s struggled with mental health issues her whole life, compulsively painting and creating as a way to work through her fears and anxieties.  After accusations of fabricating or fueling her own mental illness, Kusama returned to Japan and voluntarily checked into a mental hospital, where she’s lived since 1973.

Interest in her art didn’t strike again until the late ‘80s, but now she’s one of the most famous, highly valued female artists of our time. Make enough polka dots, and eventually they’ll have to pay attention.

 

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama (草間 彌生, Kusama Yayoi, born March 22, 1929) is a Japanese contemporary artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation, but is also active in painting, performance, film, fashion, poetry, fiction, and other arts. Her work is based in conceptual art and shows some attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop art, and abstract expressionism, and is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content. She has been acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan.

Raised in Matsumoto, Kusama trained at the Kyoto School of Arts and Crafts in a traditional Japanese painting style called nihonga. Kusama was inspired, however, by American Abstract Impressionism. She moved to New York City in 1958 and was a part of the New York avant-garde scene throughout the 1960s, especially in the pop-art movement. Embracing the rise of the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, she came to public attention when she organized a series of happenings in which naked participants were painted with brightly colored polka dots. Since the 1970s, Kusama has continued to create art, most notably installations in various museums around the world.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Yayoi Kusama.