Early in Kusama's career, she began covering surfaces (walls, floors, canvases, and later, household objects and naked assistants) with the polka dots that would become a trademark of her work. The vast fields of polka dots, or "infinity nets", as she called them, were taken directly from her hallucinations.
She left her native country at the age of 27 for New York City, on the advice of Georgia O'Keefe. During her time in the United States, she quickly established her reputation as a leader in the avant-garde movement. She organized outlandish happenings in conspicuous spots like Central Park and the Brookyln Bridge, was enormously productive, and counted Joseph Cornell among her friends and supporters, but did not profit financially from her work. She returned to Japan in ill health in 1973.
Her work shares some attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop, and abstract expressionism, but she describes herself as an obsessive artist. Her artwork is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content, and includes paintings, soft sculptures, performance art and installations.
Some interview questions:
You have referred to your polka dots as a kind of virus, spreading over everything in their midst. With the idea of "viral" in mind, do you see any relationship between your place as an artist in history and the dots you continue to depict?
Since my childhood, I have always made works with polka dots. Earth, moon, sun and human beings are all represent dots; a single particle among billions. This is one of my important philosophies, which is accepted by many people.
You have been making work in a mental institution since 1975. How do you find inspiration in such a confined space? Would you ever think of leaving the institution?
It doesn’t matter at all for me that I work in hospital or anywhere with limited space. Every day, I’m creating new works with all my might.