Today marks the 83rd birthday of Japanese conceptual artist Yayoi Kusama. Kusama's lifetime dedication to her signature dots has covered a vast array of locales and mediums, adding another name to a great legacy of artists who defy the notion that repetition is boring.
Kusama was born to an upper middle class family in Nagano, Japan in 1929. At a young age, Kusama traveled to Kyoto to study traditional Japanese painting known as Nihonga. However, she soon came to feel limited by the rigid parameters of the discipline and began displaying her own work at various solo exhibitions in Matsumoto and Tokyo. Showing an interest in the avant-garde art of Europe and the states, Kusama decided to move to New York in 1957 after an extended correspondence with Georgia O' Keefe. It would be a decision that would come to distinctively shape her career and life.
Exhibiting alongside Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg, Kusama came to be identified with the pop art movement, but her ambitions drove her past any easy classifications. Despite her prolific career, Kusama's life was impacted by serious bouts of mental illness. Since early childhood Kusama was prone to hallucinations and obsessive thoughts, which eventually led to her return to Japan in 1973. She later admitted herself into a mental hospital, where she currently resides. In a 1999 interview with BOMB Magazine, Kusama said, "My art originates from hallucinations only I can see. I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings."
Kusama took up permanent residence at the Seiwa Hospital in Tokyo by choice and was able to flourish artistically, becoming an accomplished novelist and poet as well as a fashion collaborator with the likes of Marc Jacobs. Her 1983 novel, “The Hustlers Grotto of Christopher Street,” won the Tenth Literary Award for New Writers from the monthly magazine Yasei Jidai. In 2006 she became the first woman to be awarded the Praemium Imperiale for painting, one of Japan's highest honors for artists.
Happy 83rd birthday, Yayoi Kusama!