Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Polka Dots are a Way to Infinity

Yayoi Kusama was born in Japan into a conservative, upper-middle class family in 1929. She did not like the traditional mindset that her peers had in regards to art and soon left her homeland to live in the United States. Here she was able to express herself better and soon became known for her polka dots, psychedelic colors, and avant-garde style. She is known for her unique artistic talents, including paintings, sculpture, performance art, installation art, fashion, writing, and more. She has said that without art, she would definitely not be here with us today.

As a young child, Kusama has suffered from vivid hallucinations and suicidal thoughts, likely stemming from having an abusive mother. These hallucinations often manifest themselves as polka dots on her surroundings. Instead of cowering in fear of these invasive apparitions, she embraces her fear and utilizes them in her art and incorporates it into something beautiful. Despite using her art as a way to cope with her mental illness, she voluntarily admitted herself into a mental hospital in Japan and has taken up a permanent residence there ever since. Her studio is a short distance away from the hospital, and she continues to be active in the art community.

As Nancy C. Andreasen describes in her "Secrets of the Creative Brain", there is a strong correlation between mental illness and creativity. She concludes with, 
           "Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill. And some people...are both."
Kusama is both in the sense that she makes others see what she all around her regularly. There is a kind of twisted beauty in the distorted world that she sees. Without her hallucinations, maybe polka dots wouldn't become her signature and she might not have captured the attention of so many, including Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton. 

Due to the different lens that Kusama had in viewing the world, she was able to create art that would lead to her becoming the precursor to pop art, minimalism and feminist art movements. She has been very influential in the development of Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono. She tends to work fast and in bulk, so a rhythm of productivity exists; this shows her tendencies towards repetition. Her most famous works consist of her "infinity nets" or "infinity rooms" (shown below). She installs the room with complex mirror patterns hanging at various heights to create the illusion of never ending space. The result is something extraordinary and I can only imagine have awesome it must feel to be in one of these rooms and to experience this beauty. 

She explored the possibilities of infinite space using mirrors, water, and flickering lights. These ideas stemmed from her mental illness and the polka dots, which started out as something she feared and turned it into something so beautiful. They are still a part of her, but no longer symbolize what only she can see. She integrated them and shared them with the world in her art and I am glad that she has done so because her art is truly mesmerizing. She is an inspiration not only as an artist, but as a person with a disability as well. She shows us that we do not have to fear what is wrong but embrace it to make us stronger.

1 comment:

  1. Joanna,

    I loved reading your blog post. I had seen those designs in LV and I had seen images of the infinity rooms, but I never would have pieced them together! I liked that your post focused on creativity in the context of mental illness, especially because it ends on a positive note.

    "Those who dance are considered insane by those who can’t hear the music."


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