“infinite passion”

Yayoi Kusama. Can you imagine, not only meeting her, but getting to spend time with her – over years – while making a documentary about her incredible life? Well, that is exactly what my guest did. American filmmaker Heather Lenz first fell in love with the work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama years ago during art school … and in 2018 she watched her film, Kusama Infinity, premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. AMAZING. It is such a beautiful movie on so many levels. Kusama is now 89, and I think it’s beyond fantastic that Heather was able to document this very important artist’s life in person. Just imagine, Heather got to sit with Kusama … watching her work, asking her questions, listening to stories about her time in New York, Japan, Venice and more. You can listen right up there under Kusama in her fabulous red wig, or subscribe on iTunes.

Heather did a wonderful job of telling Kusama’s story, from childhood until now. Here are just a few images that take us through this fascinating life:

Ah, yes … Kusama’s early paintings, the dizzying infinity net paintings, and literally boatloads of soft sculptures.

And then, of course, her very famous dots:

… and she’s still doing them today. In fact, she’s probably putting dots on something right this very second!

There are so many gorgeous images in the film too. These are two of my favorites, from Kusama’s early days in New York:

Gah! So stylish.

Ok, this might be one of my favorite Kusama adventures. This is when she showed up to the 1966 Venice Biennale, uninvited, and created her installation titled “Narcissus Garden”:

After she got in trouble for selling her orbs to visitors, she laid amongst them in a red unitard knowing full well the press would cover such a beautiful spectacle. She was right.

Skip ahead almost thirty years, and here we are in Venice again. This time it’s 1993 and Kusama was invited to represent Japan at the Biennale… this was hugely important for two reasons. One, she was the first woman to represent Japan, and two, in previous years Japan typically sent several artists, not just one:

Her exhibition included a range of work including a mirror room, small yellow pumpkin sculptures, and more. But this was not the first or last of Kusama’s spectacular infinity rooms:

So brilliant, and ridiculously beautiful.

Speaking of which, this is the woman we’ve been talking to. The tenacious and passionate Heather Lenz:

Inspiring and unbelievably determined … both of them! If you can see this film, please see it. We only touched on a fraction of the stories … there is so much MORE. Huge thanks to Heather for her dedication and unrelenting passion that was required to make this wonderful piece of art history come to life… I think she and Kusama have a lot in common when it comes to forging ahead no matter what. Thank you to Saatchi Art for supporting this episode, and thank YOU for listening. There will be more art for your ear next weekend.

Other links:

  1. Kusama Infinity Movie Trailer
  2. Where to see the film : US website Everywhere else website
  3. Kusama Infinity Movie on Instagram
  4. Heather on Instagram
  5. Bontoc Eulogy {film}

ps. The official trailer … it’s soooo good!

comments (6)

  1. jenn /// 11.25.2018 /// 5:20pm

    Can’t wait to see it here in Australia after Christmas
    I wonder did anyone ever mention visual snow disorder in relation to Kusama? It’s a condition that effects the visual cortex and basically means you see dots everywhere you look. Kusama’s work, especially her infinity rooms, are just what it looks like. 🙂

  2. hannalie /// 11.26.2018 /// 1:12am

    OH NO! South Africa is not on the ‘everywhere else’ list.
    But love the trailer, and lovely interview with Heather! I enjoyed the questions you asked .

  3. Vivien /// 12.03.2018 /// 6:59am

    This is a huge gift!! Thank you Heather Lenz! We were so fortunate to see the AGO show. I still cannot believe that until the AGO brought the show here, I’d never heard of Kusama. How is this possible after studying fine art for years??!! Anyways, thank goodness for the work you guys are doing!!

  4. Lisa Riedl /// 02.27.2019 /// 9:46am

    Was propelled by this interview to go rent the movie – I so appreciate how you put her story into the context of the art scene around her at the time – her whole life trying to be just heard – Well hear her roar now!

  5. the jealous curator /// 02.27.2019 /// 1:57pm

    exactly! BRAVO!

  6. MLHolton /// 03.02.2019 /// 1:48am

    Great interview & post! Thanks for sharing this insightful & creative journey of 2 ultra-creative women!

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