Yayoi Kusama was born in 1929 in Japan where she currently resides and is an abstract expressionist, minimalism, pop art and feminist artist. She became the first woman to represent Japan at the 1993 Venice Biennale and in 2016 Kusama was named one of the world’s most influential people by Time magazine. Growing up, Kusama had a hard childhood. She described her mother as cruel and her father unfaithful, both discouraged her interest in art. Despite this she started painting at the age of ten which was the first time she experienced her visual and aural hallucinations which would plague her for the rest of her life. Kusama’s art would go to express her life and her mental disease. In 1957 she moved to New York city and quickly found herself at the heart of the Avant-Garde.
She was a vital part of the Avant Garde in the 50s to early 70s. When Kusama moved to New York her action painting gained her notoriety and started a new movement. In the 1960s she produced installation, fashion, film, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and happenings. In 1960 she founded her own commercial outlet selling clothing, bags, and cars; it is called Kusama Enterprises. The products all contained her signature motif which is polka dots. Other signature motifs she has are pumpkins and mirrors. She went back to Japan in 1973 where she checked herself into the Seiwa Mental Hospital in Tokyo and has chosen to remain there. In 1993 she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale, which was the first time in the public eye in decades. Kusama began to create open air sculptures in 1994, she made some of the Bunka-mura on Benesse Island of Naoshima and for the Fukuoka Kenko center to name a two, In 1995 and 96 she had a solo show in New York and won best Gallery show for both years.
In 2017 her museum in Tokyo was inaugurated, her Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden debuted in Washington D.C., and had concurrent exhibitions at the David Zwirner in New York. Institutions where some of Kusama’s works can be found in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, LA County Museum of Art, and National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. Awards she was won is the Asahi Prize in 2001, the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Officier), the Nagano Governor Prize in 2003 for her contribution in encouragement of art and culture, National Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2006, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Losette and The Praemium Imperiale -Painting in 2006.
Kusama’s pumpkin motif is one of her best known; The pumpkin motif is used as an allegory and a self-portraiture. She enjoys using this motif due to their “charming and winsome form, their generous unpretentiousness and solid spiritual base.” Kusama uses the pumpkin in drawings, sculptures, and installations; one of her pumpkin sculptures can be seen in the Papajohn Sculpture park in Des Moines Iowa.