“One day, I suddenly looked up to find that each and every violet had its own individual, human-like facial expression, and to my astonishment they were all talking to me.” On other occasions, “suddenly things would be flashing and glittering all around me. So many different images leaped into my eyes that I was left dazzled and dumbfounded.” Whenever these hallucinations occurred, she would rush home and draw what she had seen. (Source: FT.com)
Growing up, Van Gogh was my favorite artist. I always thought it was terrible that people dismissed his art. He lived in and out of sanitariums of years. While alive, he only earned about about $100 for his paintings. He starved. He cut his own ear off. Yet he made the most beautiful works of art that are worth millons of dollars today. He continues to inspire people long after his death. What if Van Gogh would have had the opportunity to work the way that Kusama does today? This was my main thought while wandering through the galleries.
Van Gogh left behind letters and journals in which he explained his philosophy on creating art:
“The world only concerns me in so far as I feel a certain debt and duty towards it and out of gratitude want to leave some souvenir in the shape of drawings or pictures – not made to please a certain tendency in art, but to express sincere human feeling.”
Similarly, Kusama stated:
“I am always trying to transmit my own message to as many people as possible,” she says. “My main message is please stop war and live out the brilliance of life. (Source: ft.com)
Art gives people a way to heal. I think it’s pretty extraordinary that despite an illness, Kusama has created a body of work that spans 50 years. My friend Nadine and I talked about the show. She said she really liked how Kusama rejected the typical sensibility that Japanese culture is recognized for. So true! But I think that this same sensibility is what allowed Kusama to still remain an artist in the face of her sickness.
Kusama in her studio. Image courtesy of ft.com