Revolutionary Women in Art History: Yayoi Kusama

Written by Ella, Teen Volunteer
Halifax Public Libraries' Teen Blog is written by and for teens. Discover more posts here., opens a new window 

As an art lover since childhood, I have been exposed to lots of different art galleries and art. I very early on became aware of the fact that almost all the world-famous artists were men, and that women artists’ names were not very often seen or heard compared to their male peers. I then had an opportunity at school to do research about female artists, and I realized that women were historically discouraged from, and discriminated against for pursuing a career in the arts. Yet, there were so many incredible female artists who broke barriers in society. They became my mentors who motivated, changed, and inspired me. In this series of blog posts, I'm going to share information about three women artists that I love personally. After that, I will be working on three art pieces inspired by these artists that will be displayed at one of the Library branches.

In my previous blog, I introduced to you the female artist Mary Cassatt. The next artist I am featuring is the Princess of Polka Dots in the 21st century: Yayoi Kusama.

Pop art and Minimalist artist in the 21st century: Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama and her use of space, varied mediums, vibrant colours, and eye-catching installations have revolutionized the contemporary art world. She's considered one of the most influential and beloved living female artists. She says about her life, "Every time I have had a problem, I have confronted it with the axe of art.”

  • Yayoi Kusama was born in Japan in 1929.
  • She had minimal formal art training, at the Kyoto City Specialist School of Arts from 1948 to 1949.
  • Kusama’s extensive use of polka dots and the concept of infinity started from an early age.
  • Kusama explored painting, performance art, sculpture, and installations in the styles of Pop art and Minimalism.
  • Kusama’s art proposed anti-war, anti-establishment, and free-love ideas. She also challenged the male-dominated art scene in New York.
  • She has had large-scale solo artwork shows in Seoul, Taiwan, Chile, Mexico City, and Rio, as well as major exhibitions in North America and Europe.

What is Pop art & Minimalism?

Pop art, opens a new window is a style of art based on simple, bold images of everyday items.

Minimalism, opens a new window is determined by one major principle: keep it simple! It strips everything down to its essential quality and achieves simplicity.

Her art

A self-described “obsessional artist”, she is known internationally for her style of grids and dots as well as sculpture and performance work that break stereotypes. 

The marvelous, all-over dots are what make Kusama’s work so unique. 

These polka dots marks on drawings, paintings, objects, and clothes draw the audience into the massive universe that Kusama creates by giving the audience the impression of melting and turning into a part of that universe. This environment lets the gallery experience the sensation of self-obliteration, too! 

During an interview in 1968, Kusama said: 

Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment.”  

Her work embraces the concept of multiplicity; the repetitions that occur in nature.

Learn more

Interested in learning more? Check out the websites I used for my information:

The Guardian, opens a new window

Encyclopedia Britannica, opens a new window

About the writer

My name is Ella (Sunghyun) Kang and I’m 16 years old. I’m a teenager who loves art, reading, and Halifax.