Life In Polks Dots
“After all, well, moon is a polka dot, sun is a polka dot, and then, the earth where we live is also a polka dot.”- Yayoi Kusamas
In 1929, the Kusama family welcomed their fourth child into the world. Little did they know that the tiny baby girl would become a legend.
Although the Kusama family was financially wealthy, their family life was less than ideal due to the two parents’ loveless arranged marriage. They constantly fought, and to avoid the fighting Kamon, Yayoi’s father, was absent from the home and this caused more tension as Shigeru, Yayoi’s mother, felt that this left her with the pressure of running the household and taking care of the children which created a rift between the whole family.
Yayoi took solace in art at a young age. She said she started having hallucinations where fabric patterns talked to her. These hallucinations were her first inspiration for her art as they became therapeutic to her as she drew them. A couple of years later, Yayoi was sent to a factory to sew parachutes for the war. Yayoi felt like she had no control over anything that was happening at home and in her country. This caused her immense anxiety which the sewing helped to soothe a little.
Although the norm for young ladies in the 1940s was to become homemakers, much to Shigeru’s disdain, Yayoi studied art in her home city of Masamoto and Kyoto where she was met with more resistance because, due to the war, Japan had a movement which rejected anything from western culture and was only allowed to practise Nihonga, which is Japanese-style painting that uses mineral pigments, and occasionally ink, together with other organic pigments on silk or paper but despite this Yayoi persevered and her work got widely recognised in Japan where it was shown at many exhibitions.
In 1957, Yayoi had had enough. She was suffocated by her country and mother who both sought to control her. Yayoi made the move to the USA where she was allowed the freedom to explore who she wanted to be. Georgia O’Keeffe and Yayoi developed a kinship through letters before she left and O’Keeffe fortunately opened doors for her to create a life as an artist. Yayoi spent the next few years working and enjoying her life to the sound of the 60’s. She expressed herself through various mediums, she wrote poetry and even created multiple fashion shows to send her message to the world.
Although she loved her art, it didn’t yield a lot of money and sometimes she worked for more than 50 hours at a time. This caused her much stress and when a dear friend passed away, Yayoi retreated to Japan to seek treatment for her mental health. She was diagnosed with OCD. After the diagnosis she checked herself into Seiwa Mental Hospital to rebuild herself and her life. Yayoi has been working and residing at Seiwa since
Yayoi has created a legacy of survival and her work tells a story of healing and triumph. She has never stopped working because her art is her therapy which shows in the bright, attractive colours of her installations. Despite the turbulence of her beginning, Yayoi’s journey to become a world renowned artist and an iconic fashionista has been nothing short of inspiring.