Inspired by Yayoi Kusama

“My life is a dot lost among thousands of other dots.”

– Yayoi Kusama

The students at Kingsway College caught the Kusama fever that is taking over Toronto! The upcoming AGO show, Yayoi Kusama – Infinity Mirrors is experiencing an unprecedented demand for tickets and has been sold out in all the other cities who have hosted the exhibit. Today we were inspired by her illustrations of Alice in Wonderland and created our own Yayoi inspired pieces.

Yayoi Kusama was born on March 22, 1929 in Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan. She grew up in an affluent family who owned a nursery and seed farm. She was drawn to art from an early age. When Kusama was 10 years old, she began to experience vivid hallucinations which she has described as “flashes of light, auras, or dense fields of dots.”

Due to the Second World War, when Kusama was 13 years old she was sent to work in a factory making parachutes for the Japanese army. She was greatly influenced by her time spent working and hearing the air raid sirens and seeing the planes flying overhead.

She went on to study a type of painting known as Nihonga, which is a traditional form of Japanese painting. She became frustrated with this traditional style and soon started to express herself in the more avant-garde styles of her European contemporaries.

In 1950 Kusama started to cover surfaces with polka dots which would become always linked with her work. In her own words, “A polka-dot is the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement…polka dots are a way to infinity.”

Kusama spent almost 20 years in New York City where she worked relentlessly on her art. She was continuously overworking and exhausting herself and money was always an issue.

In 1973 she returned to Japan where she began writing novels, short stories and poetry. In 1977 she checked herself into the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill, where she eventually took up permanent residence. Since than she has chosen to continue living there.

Kusama continues to work and create daring and surreal art works, from large Infinity Room installations to her polka-dot paintings. On March 3, 2018 her show Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms will be at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Art example; illustration from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by Kusama.

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