This one is a bit sentimental, since Danny and I did a team project on this lovely lady back in the days of art history classes. I don’t remember what grade we got on the project, but we certainly had a good time making it.
I freaking love this lady.
Yayoi Kusama, also known as the coolest Japanese grandmother living across your street, has been influencing the New York and world art scene with her psychedelic, culture-normativity-warping physical exhibitions as well as interactive and performance art. In the ‘60s, she hosted happenings, or “social demonstrations” as she called them, usually involved painting nude people in polka dots around targeted monuments such as the Statue of Liberty or the MoMA, to promote an anti-war, anti-capitalist, and a free love agenda. Polka dots have remained a theme in her canvas and sculpture artwork, and so have penises.
You read that right. I said it. Penises. Phallus’ covering chairs, walls, step ladders, and more. Feel free to peruse here. They’re shocking, embarrassing, downright hilarious, and ultimately you’re not sure what to think, but you leave the gallery feeling better about life and yourself. It’s a perfect balance of taking a taboo thing, breaking down its parts (no pun intended) and questioning its place, role, and status in society. Particularly something that has held power and control, and associating it with banal items like chairs and ladders.
Yayoi has been around for so long and is so prolific, that attempting to capture the full aspect of her body of work is, well, unadvisable. She’s involved in fashion, art in countless mediums, literature, and film, with pretty much yearly new material for our general enjoyment, we just can’t get enough.
To end on a more personal note, Yayoi grew up in an abusive and restrictive home. She has openly written and spoken about struggling with mental illness her entire life. In 1977, she checked herself into a mental hospital, close by to her studio, where she has lived ever since.
Oh, and if you’d like to purchase (and then gift to me, her biggest fan) some polka dot goodness to lift the spirits of your office or home, see here.