Yayoi Kusama was born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan. She began painting as a child to express hallucinations and escape a family dynamic marked by abuse and neglect. At the Kyoto School of Arts and Crafts, she studied Nihonga, a style of formal, traditional Japanese painting. She moved in 1958 to New York, inspired by the rise of Abstract Expressionism and a letter from Georgia O’Keeffe.
Over the next decade, Kusama worked on her series of Infinity Nets, paintings, soft sculptures, collages, films, and installations that featured repetitive motifs and alluded to her hallucinations. In the 1960s, she staged happenings throughout New York City, one of which included her painting polka dots on naked participants. In 1973, she returned to Japan, and in 1977, she moved, by her own choice, into a psychiatric hospital, where she still lives today. After delving into the world of poetry and short stories, she returned to creating works featuring the iconic polka dots of her childhood visions. This time, she scattered the dots, which to her represent the sun and moon, movement, and a way to infinity, in rooms of mirrors. In 1993, she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale, and in 2017, the Yayoi Kusama Museum opened in Tokyo.
Throughout her prolific career, Kusama has consistently explored themes of mental illness, repetition, obsession, creation, destruction, sex, and feminism through paintings, sculptures, collages, drawings, films, poetry, and works of fashion and performance art. She has received numerous awards, and her work has been featured in many retrospectives and traveling exhibitions.