Focusing on the remarkable life and art of Yayoi Kusama, and directed by Heather Lenz, Kusama – Infinity is an insightful documentary that offers up a intimate portrait of a woman who battled against decades of sexism, plagiarism and her own internal battles to eventually receive deserved recognition across the art world.
Starting with a history of her youth and growing up in a family that seemingly never encouraged her desires, at the time in Japan it would have been hugely unusual for someone from a privileged background to become an artist, it’s clear that Yayoi fought constantly towards becoming the artist she wanted to be, from a very early age.
The documentary traces her move as an adult to New York in 1958, a time where travel was rare and expensive, as she bravely left her old life behind her for the dream of becoming a full-time artist in the Big Apple. This was spurred on by letters with Georgia O’Keeffe and her recommendation that if she wanted to succeed, then she had to go for it, whatever it took. This move, and her ambitions, really did go against the grain of everything and everyone around her, which in the end makes Yayoi’s story even more astonishing.
What’s particularly interesting is how her childhood influenced and inspired her artwork, even if it wasn’t a happy time. Her eagerness to finish drawings and obsessively focus on one thing at a time could have undoubtedly developed from her Mother trying to stop her art, and growing up in a business that sold seeds and flowers in Japan. Having witnessed first-hand Yakoi’s Gleaming Lights of the Souls, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art just north of Copenhagen, I fully appreciate the captivating nature of her work as both a wonderful experience and an inspiring escape from reality towards the space above us.
Kusama – Infinity highlights the ground she broke along the way for female artists outside of the male dominated industry. From inspiring Andy Warhol to conducting the first-known gay wedding in New York, this is a tale of a remarkable woman who’s never taken ‘no’ for an answer and changed the world with unique, original work along the way to eventually become the best-selling living artist in the world.
In Yakoi’s conclusive comments, as she looks back at her life’s work, struggles and innovations, she says “I hope that the power of art can make the world more peaceful” and that’s not only a wonderful way to exist but also an inspiring thought to take away from this documentary and a truly unique life story.