In which blog writer E. Nork will discuss a person that she is and Yayoi Kusama, a person that she isn't.
I'm not really sure what the rules are in this case, but I'm going to guess that the proper course of action before I enthusiastically ramble to you would be to introduce myself. I will do just that, and then, don't you worry, I will ramble.
My name is Erica Nork, and I'm sixteen years old and currently in my third year at Phillips Academy in Andover. According to the numerous verses about cats found in my kindergarten diary, I've apparently always loved writing poetry, although for the most part I’ve never been particularly good at it. I write regardless, but nowadays I mostly just pine over works that smarter, deader people have written. Aside from writing, I enjoy both performing and recreational theology, which surprisingly I've found have a lot to do with one another. Some of my favorite writers include (to name a few) e. e. cummings, Henry David Thoreau, and J.D. Salinger (Nine Stories is incredibly underrated), but let's not forget the eternally angst-filled poems of Catullus (whom my fellow Latin students out there love so dearly). I am on a constant quest to find the saddest of sad songs; so far the top contender is Michicant by Bon Iver but it may be revoked of its position any moment. Some of my trivial talents include dropping Portlandia quotes in menial conversation (cacao), having ridiculously small handwriting much to the chagrin of all my teachers, and drinking enough coffee on a daily basis to send a small rhinoceros into a tailspin.
Also, by some interworking of an unknowable, ineffable fate, I am not the prominent 20th Century Japanese conceptual artist Yayoi Kusama.
“When I was a child I experienced this state of self-obliteration, so I painted the same motif endlessly. When I was painting I found the same pattern on the ceiling, stairs and windows, like they were all over. So I went closer and tried to touch them. Then they started to come up my arm as well. It was horrible but now it’s over, almost.”
Thus mutters Yayoi Kusama, the dubbed Princess of Polka Dots and matriarch of Andy Warhol’s pop-art era, ruling both conceptual art galleries as notable as Tate and MOMA, and a small sector of the fashion world, having collaborated with Louis Vuitton, among others. She stops at little, bats her eyes at nothing, covers canvases in neon and fills rooms with lights. Her work is still just as vivid even years after its creation; her infinities, her voids, her hallucinations and obliterations, her exultations of her own fear, her stories of stark childhood and restraint run rampant.
One would not expect such life from this small, ancient woman with shaking hands and an owl-like gaze, living out of a Tokyo mental institution.
She is best known for her polka dots, which she has made as a motif both in her personal fashion and throughout her work. At Tate Modern, a famous installation of hers known as the “Obliteration Room” invited viewers to do the artists work, and cover an entirely white room of white domestic furniture in brightly colored polka dots. She covers herself in dots as well, choosing to wear bright red coats mottled with white spots, topped off by a matching red wig, as her signature look. Another more controversial motif of hers is the phallus, which she almost irreverently includes in her large-scale sculptural works, covering furniture in hundreds of phallic forms. When asked about her inspiration in an interview with BBC, she said that the “penis chairs” are a way of escaping her own carnal fear.
However, one of her most vivid and touching pieces, and the piece that brought me into knowledge of her work, is her spatial exploration entitled “The Infinity Room”. The physical concept behind it is simple: she covered a room entirely in mirrored glass, and hung from its ceiling strands of brightly colored lights. The result, however, is universally and cosmically more: the small parcels of light flutter infinitely, leaving one in a strange ether between a familiar city skyline and unknowable outer space, filled with ever-changing stars, bright dots in a void like sky, exploding and reincarnating again and again, signifying everything. This piece, just as the rest of her art, continues to live even in this transient world, and that specific infinity is a type of hallucinogenic magic, at the will of only the most talented artists.
Sadly, I am not Yayoi Kusama, and I’m assuming that you aren’t either. I was not born in 1929, nor am I a native Japanese woman, nor am I a prominently brazen and flamboyant modern artist (yet). I’m assuming you and I feel similarly in that much like hot sauce polka dots should in most situations be used sparingly, while Kusama obviously doesn’t share that sentiment with us. I, and I’m assuming you as well, tend not to have hallucinations that the entire world is crawling with spots and nets, which are slowly creeping up ones limbs and taking over, or express this ineffable terror by painting rambunctiously. However, what I lack in Yayoi Kusama-ness I make up for in the things she and her work teach me: to search for things that may never be understood, to break boundaries that may never have been there, and finally, who cares what your mom thinks, go ahead and wear that pom-pom scarf with that oversized man-cardigan, you look great regardless.