The Mesmerizing Work of Yayoi Kusama

Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, at 90 years old, has captured the curiosity of the art world for decades. Her bright wigs and polka dot patterns are a staple of her style, which is influenced by feminism, minimalism, and pop art among other modern art movements. An artist working with sculpture, installation, performance, film, fashion, and other arts, Kusama’s versatility showcases her true creative abilities.

Kusama’s famous patterns stem from a childhood hallucinations of endless dots, which provided solace from her traumatic childhood. Her obsession with dots encourages viewers to absorb themselves in the environment, revelling in the overwhelming infiniteness of life.

Yayoi Kusama’s life experiences were not exactly pleasant. Born into an affluent family in Japan, her mother was unsupportive of her art and was physically abusive. Kusama’s father was involved in extramarital affairs, which led to her lifelong contempt for sexuality. During World War II, she was sent to a military factory producing parachutes as a teenager “in closed darkness.” After living in Tokyo and France for a period, then moved to the United States at 27 years old.

The artist’s mental illness is simultaneously a source of inspiration and frustration–Kusama was hospitalized many times and even attempted suicide in the 1960s-70s. Later, she returned to Japan and voluntarily checked herself into Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill. She permanently resides there, and makes her work in a nearby studio. For her, art has become a creative escape.

Kusama continues to be a prolific artist, creating fantastical pumpkin sculptures, fashion collaborations with prominent designers, and Infinity Room museum installations, novels, among other endeavors.

All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (Cathy Carver/Hirshhorn Museum)
Infinity Mirror Room (Tate Modern)
Portrait of Yayoi Kusama (Victoria Miro)


Student at the University of Michigan studying Art & Design and Communication & Media, hoping to create meaningful design for social impact. Every week I highlight an intriguing artist (or group of artists)!

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