Women Artists

Pumpkin Spiced Yayoi Kusama

Magda Michalska 26 October 2021 min Read

Yayoi Kusama, the legendary Japanese artist born in 1929, began her career 69 years ago. Nevertheless, the world discovered her just a couple of years back. Now it’s trying to make up for lost time through numerous exhibitions that are being organized around the world. Whereas in Tokyo in 2017, Kusama opened an entire museum dedicated to her polka dotted oeuvre. But what do pumpkins have to do with all this?

Pumpkins accompanied Yayoi Kusama from her early childhood. She grew up surrounded by a seed nursery owned by her family. With their whimsical shape and color, to her they represented a source of radiant energy and have been a lifelong inspiration and a beloved motif in her works. We may dare say that Kusama found a reflection of herself in their grotesque boldness, and simultaneous humility and simplicity. Therefore her pumpkins can serve as a sort of a self-portrait.

 

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2016, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver.
Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. Photographed by Thierry Bal.

 

Kusama launched her first infinity mirror room in 1965 and has now created more than 20 such mirrored spaces, which are designed to fully immerse the spectator. The rooms are small and entirely covered in mirrors (on the walls, ceiling, and floor), which enhances the feeling of infinity. In the case of her rooms filled with pumpkins, it is a pumpkin infinity, as the artist fits 62 acrylic yellow pumpkins covered in black polka dots in the room.

Yayoi Kusama, Yellow Pumpkin, 1992, private collection, pumpkins kusama
Yayoi Kusama, Yellow Pumpkin, 1992, private collection.

She first began to cover surfaces with painted polka dots at the age of ten. As she later explained, she had been prompted by a series of vivid hallucinations that transformed the world around her into ‘dense fields of dots.’ In the late 1940s, she spent two years in Kyoto, painting pumpkins because, as she has written, “pumpkins bring about poetic peace in my mind. Pumpkins talk to me.”

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2016, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, pumpkin kusama
Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2016, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, UK.

She has worked in a variety of media, drawing from styles ranging from Surrealism to Pop Art. Her psychedelic art is difficult to categorize, which wins her unlimited freedom and many collaborations outside of fine arts, like the one with high fashion brand Louis Vuitton.

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