In the summer, I went to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. Don’t get me started on the antiquated system of lining up to get tickets. As I waited for 90 minutes to get the tickets, I wondered if the queuing was part of the hype for the show. Actually, it turned out to be practice for when you had line up for every single room installation in the exhibition. But all the staff at the SAM were lovely. The ticket people must be trained to defuse angry customers because in the time it took to buy three tickets, she complimented my glasses, my home city, and my pink wallet.
When you think of Yayoi Kusama, polka dots come to mind. Indeed, shops around the SAM are taking advantage by decorating with polka dots to lure people with Kusama fever. But none of these displays look as incredible as the dots in the show.
The reason for this is simple. What Kusama is really famous for is repetition. Repetition taken to a ridiculous level.
Last week, I wrote about the online course I took on modern abstraction. Kusama was one of the artists covered, and we made a painting in the style of each artist. For Kusama, we were supposed to make an Infinity Net painting. This meant painting tiny loops all over a painted surface. Repeating one motion over a small canvas was both meditative and crazy-making for me. I can’t even imagine doing the same loops over a large canvas (up to 14 feet or 4 metres) as Kusama does. But that’s what makes her work great. It’s not the ideas, it’s the scale.
She creates a lighting installation and then multiplies it with mirrors. She creates environments where you have to experience visions as she intended them.
She takes something as simple as a stick-on polka dot and lets us repeat it all over a white room until it’s beautiful and awe-inspiring. Everyone in the installation room was smiling, either because they had participated in the art or because it was fun in there.
So whatever creative project you’re working on, think about scale. Is there a way you could blow up your project to a ridiculous scale? If you’re making art could it be bigger—so much bigger that it stretches your logistical mind? Or can you multiply the number of items? Don’t go for easy increases, push yourself to obsessive levels. There’s magic in the craziness.