‘I, Kusama, am the modern Alice in Wonderland.’- Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist and writer. During her career she worked in various fields, being it drawing, collage, sculpture, installations and so on. In her works can be seen her interest in psychedelic colors. She can be considered as a precursor of minimalism, pop art and feminist art.
Yayoi showed her interest in art in early ages. In 1948 she started studying Japanese style painting in Kyoto, but soon she realized that it wasn’t enough for her and became interested in the European and American avant-garde. Since childhood Kusama experienced hallucinations and obsessive thought, mainly of a suicidal nature. She claims that she was subjected to physical abuse by her mother. These hallucinations served as an inspiration for the artist. She started using polka dots obsessively in every piece of work and soon it became her trading mark. She developed new obsession too – taking picture with her every new creation. In 1950s she had several personal exhibitions in Japan and in 1957 moved to live in America. There she started working on sculpture and installations and became known as member of art pop and avant-garde movement. Being in America, working there proved to be very productive for the artist and in 1966 she was already working with room-size installations. Kusama was hospitalized regularly for overwork. Also, she had no profit from her works and was experiencing some severe financial problems. Kusama became mostly known for organizing series of happenings, where nude participants were painted in polka dots. This was all designed to protest the Vietnam War.
‘With just one polka dot, nothing can be achieved. In the universe, there is the sun, the moon, the earth, and hundreds of millions of stars. All of us live in the unfathomable mystery and infinitude of the universe. Pursuing ‘philosophy of the universe’ through art under such circumstances has led me to what I call ‘stereotypical repetition.’ -Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi moved to America to gain freedom, to be released from all the pressure she encountered in her homeland. But while being in America, she always felt like outsider, woman – in man-ruled world, Japanese in Western society. But despite these facts she never deterred, she worked nonstop to gain her rightful place among known artists. With her paintings and other works she tried to resist, go against the patriarchal system.
In 1973 she moved back to Japan and became art dealer, which lasted for several years. Meanwhile she was also writing novels, short stories and poetry. Soon, in 1977 because of mental illness she had to check herself into the hospital. She still lives there and continues working.
‘More and more, I think about the role of the arts, and as an artist, I think that it’s important that I share the love and peace.‘ – Yayoi Kusama
It’s true, after returning in Japan artist was forgotten for some time, but she gained everyone’s attention by her works again. In age 86 she still continues painting, drawing, exhibiting her works. Her creations inspire many artists. In her works you can sense artist’s state of mind, her attitudes. Especially in her late works you can see her obsessions, her need to get rid of them, be free from mental problems.
Author: Merry Khamkhadze