Connecting the Dots

Yayoi Kusama in one of her installations.

Yayoi Kusama, now 81 years-old, is a fascinating woman and a true provocateur. Donald Judd adored her. So did Joseph Cornell. (They were both her lovers.) And in the mid-Sixties, when she put on art happenings in New York, paining the nude bodies of her participants with polka dots, she was as notorious as Warhol. (She organized a Wall Street nude-in, and a body-painting fest in Central Park before museum execs at MoMa stopped her “Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead” from taking place in the sculpture garden there.)

She’s best known, however, for her love of polka dots, and dots, and dots, a form which has obsessed her since she was a child. In fact, the dots and nets that predominate in her pictorial work were inspired by the hallucinations she began having at around 10 years old. (The artist checked herself in to a Tokyo psychiatric care facility in 1977 and still lives there, creating her work in a nearby studio.)

She calls her art work “artistic medicine,” and I have to agree. It is overpowering, joyful to the brink. From Kusama’s macaroni-encrusted handbags, to her polka-dot emblazoned people and environments, her work provides a deep, provocative pleasure.

Here is a trailer for a good documentary about Kusama. [youtube]! [/youtube]