yayoi kusama

Fireflies on the Water


How pretty is this photo? It’s an image of the exhibit “Fireflies on the Water,”В which is at the Whitney through September 30. The artist, Yayoi Kusama, created a seemingly endless space using strategically placed mirrors and tiny yellow and blue Christmas lights. Visitors enter the room alone and experience the effect standing on a small platform over a pool of water. (I imagine it must be beautiful and surreal, enchanting and a little disorienting. I’m hoping to take it in sometime during the coming weeks!)

I hadn’t heard of Kusama before, but she has a really interesting story. She was born in Japan and came to NYC to make a name for herself in 1958. She became part of the avant-garde NYC scene in the ’60s, hobnobbing with Andy Warhol and the like. Then, in the early ’70s, Kusama packed it in, returned to Japan and checked herself into a mental hospital, where she still lives and produces art today. I thought that sounded a little, um, weird, until I read NY Mag‘s feature on her, which contains this explanation:

But whatever you make of her retreat into a psych ward, her mantra was always “self-obliteration”—to lose herself in the work, or to the work, to save herself. “I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieves my illness is to keep creating art,” she wrote in her autobiography.

Who can’t relate to that desire to lose yourself in an activity that allows you to escape your troubles? (Even if we don’t go to the extent of institutionalizing ourselves?)

(Photo via the Whitney Museum of Art)