Best known for her polka dots, Yayoi Kusama is the “world’s best selling female artist,” according to BBC Arts and Entertainment. Her “works have sold for over 65 million dollars… putting her 13th overall,” according to MutualArt.
Born in Matsumoto in the Nagano prefecture, in Chuba, Japan, Kusama has been creating her art since she was a young girl, breaking social norms and familial expectations in both her art and her life.
The film “Kusama Infinity” documents Kusama’s upbringing during a turbulent World War II Japan, her repressive childhood home life, the struggle with mental illness, early life as a woman coping with racism and sexism in a male-dominated art world—even in the freewheeling life of the 60s and 70s—the groundbreaking and taboo-pushing in her work and in her Nude Happenings, and the male artist contemporaries who often stole or “mirrored” her ideas mere months after her exhibitions—and you will be surprised at the artists who did this.
“No matter how much I suffer for my art, I have no regrets.” – Yayoi Kusama, “Kusama Infinity”
With current interviews of Kusama—who still works and paints even while receiving treatment for her mental illness—along with archival footage of film and photos documenting her life and work over the last 50 plus years, “Kusama Infinity” is as gorgeous as it is sometimes painful, as are aspects of Kusama’s life and her struggles in her work. The film overall is an honest and yet sensitive examination of Kusama—the woman, the highly prolific artist, and a person actively working in a world where mental illness is still, at best, misunderstood, and at worst, shunned or shamed.
Kusama paints what she sees in her minds-eye, where much is based on vivid mental images brought on by her mental illness.
“I come up with ideas and the canvas cannot keep up with me,” Kusama is quoted saying in the film, where she also credits the “richness of my hallucinations” as the main substance of her creativity behind her art.
While studying art in the early 90s, Director, Producer and Writer Heather Lenz became fascinated with Kusama’s work and “worked over a decade” to bring Kusama’s story to the screen, according to a press release.
During the making of her documentary, Lenz married into a Japanese family. Her husband’s grandfather was one of the 80,000 people killed by the five-ton atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Lenz felt it was important to tell more about the effect that war had on Kusama’s young life and on her “darker side” in order to serve as a warning.
The film talks of her correspondence with artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who was an idol of her time, and other relationships that either served as inspiration or catalysts. O’Keefe is the greatest selling female artist of all time, and Kusama is now climbing to take her own place within the top 15 of all female artists ever.
Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms at The Broad, popular with Instagrammers, sold out of the 50,000 available tickets the museum offered within two hours when the exhibit opened in September 2017. One of her rooms, “The Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” is on permanent exhibit at The Broad, and “With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray Forever” is currently on exhibit at the Marciano Art Foundation.
“Her work really does transcend boundaries. It really does appeal to a very broad group of people … she’s had over 5 million visitors since 2013,” said a curator in the film.
Kusama’s Life Is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibit, now currently at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, Indonesia, which is a culmination over 70 years of her professional artistic life that includes over 130 pieces of her work, according to MutualArt.com.
“Kusama Infinity” opens today, Friday, September 7, 2018 at the Nuart Theater in West Los Angeles with showtimes throughout the day beginning at 1:30 p.m., with a special appearance and Q & A by filmmaker Heather Lenz and moderator, Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Saturday, September 8, 2018, at 7:30 p.m.
“Kusama Infinity” will continue in Los Angeles at various Laemmle Theatres, Monday, October 15, 2018.
For additional locations, dates and ticket information, go to www.kusamamovie.com