A Woman to Know: Yayoi Kusama

I am just another dot in the world. — Yayoi Kusama

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

Yayoi Kusama is besotted with dots — dot maps, polka dots, dotted lines, dots of light and more. The 86-year-old Japanese artist is famous for her zany paintings, bizarre outdoor sculpture and humongous outdoor installations. Her personal life is just as notorious as her artistic one: she has lived voluntarily inside a Japanese mental institution since 1977 ("my artwork is an expression of my life, especially of my mental disease"), and she lists other creative luminaries (including Joseph Cornell, my personal favorite artist) as close friends and lovers.

Yayoi has staged "performance art orgies," where participants paint their partners in thousands of glow-in-the-dark dots. She has built entire mirror-walled rooms lit by disco balls, where viewers can see points of light reflected into a seeming infinity. She has posed naked in downtown Manhattan, cast balloons off a rooftop and collaborated with Louis Vuitton.

And according to The Guardian, she's the most popular artist in the world — more people attended her museum exhibitions in 2014 than saw work by such famous male artists as Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly and even Andy Warhol. Her mirrored rooms debut today at the Hirshhorn. The timed passes sold out in minutes.

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