Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama was born in 1929 to an upper-middle-class merchant family living in Matsumoto, about 100 miles northwest of Tokyo. Her childhood was difficult:  her parents’ marriage was troubled , and Kusama began suffering from hallucinations and suicidal thoughts at an early age. She says that her art has been both a manifestation of her turbulent mental state, and a cathartic act.  In the early 1950s, after briefly attending art school, Kusama moved to Tokyo, where she had several solo exhibitions of her paintings. In 1957, she moved to the U.S., settling in New York City. Here, she became actively involved in the New York avant-garde and Pop Art movements. In addition to her paintings and large soft sculptures, she organized “Happenings,” often involving naked people painted with polka-dots and staged as anti-Vietnam War protests. She established the Kusama Fashion Company, which produced a line of outrageous clothing, which she often wore at events. Kusama moved back to Japan in 1973 and checked herself into a mental hospital, where she continues to live. She works from a nearby studio and produces paintings, sculptures, and installations  -- still incorporating her polka-dot patterns into the pieces. She’s also published a book of poems and a number of novels. In 1968, she produced and starred in the film Kusama’s Self-Obliteration, which went on to win several interational awards. In 1991, Kusama had the featured role in the movie Tokyo Decadence, written and directed by Ryu Murakami; and in 1993, she collaborated with British musician Peter Gabriel on an installation in Yokohama. Another documentary entitled Kusama, Princess of Polka Dots is in progress.

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