YAYOI KUSAMA CONNECTS THE DOTS
The dark side of artist Yayoi Kusama’s pattern obsession
by Maria Raposo
Known as the “Princess of Polka Dots”, Yayoi Kusama is Japan’s most successful living artist to date. From her polka-dot themed 1960’s orgies, to her Infinity Net paintings, and recent fashion collaborations with Louis Vuitton. Kusama is one of the greatest art world eccentrics.
But connect the dots, and you’ll find a dark and troubled history behind their conception. Kusama-universe echoes the hallucinatory state, in which she views the world. Growing up with a violent mother, who destroyed her paintings and sent her to spy on her father having sex with his mistresses, Kasuma had an unstable childhood. Consequentially developing a phobia of penises, she created phallic artwork in order to overcome her fear. Famously A-sexual, her only romantic relationship recorded was with the artist Joseph Cornell, who was impotent.
From a young age, Kusama was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and suffered from psychotic delusions. Her vision would become plagued by circular patterns that spiralled out of control across her body and surroundings. Frightened, she felt as if she would be destroyed amongst its relentless attacks on her sanity; her work is an effort to control the disease and the desire to escape psychological trauma. After returning from New York in 1975, Kasuma was admitted to a Japanese psychiatric hospital, where she has remained for nearly 40 years. Yayoi Kasuma’s work is potent, because it is shaped by her illness; a fascinating insight into a world which only she can see, of which her troubled self is at the centre.