78-year old Yayoi Kusama has had a hallucinatory obsession with dots for as long as she can remember. Throughout the hardships she endured as a child—alleged abuse by her mother, suicidal tendencies—all she saw was dots. Vast fields covered with dots, people wearing polka dots, trees wearing polka dots. Instead of trying to fix her OCD, Kusama decided to embrace it, moving to NYC in her late twenties to meet pen pal Georgia O'Keefe and join the thriving avant garde movement. Today, her signature art can be seen in galleries and museums all over the world.
Kusama herself lives in a mental hospital in Tokyo. It's a personal choice—she feels more comfortable there, and leaves only to go work in her nearby studio and to attend award ceremonies where she's touted for having an amazing brain that yields beautiful dots.
People are fascinated with brains that function differently than that of the average human. Despite being a near-octogenarian, I tend to think that Kusama's brain is actually closer to what humankind's will look like in the future—colorful, orderly, and full of dots.
Her next major US exhibit is Dots Obsession, part of a week-long celebration of Japanese art at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Image by Getty