by Yayoi Kusama (b.1929)
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama confesses to having an obsession with pumpkins that began in early childhood. She is drawn to their form (shape), colour and feel. She has abstracted (simplified) the basic elements of the pumpkin in this work to give it a rather humorous quality. But does she still manage to represent the pumpkin-ness of a pumpkin?
Growing up, the artist was surrounded by pumpkins on her family's seed farm, and she recalls dreamlike visions of them covered in dots. Kusama has spoken openly about her mental health and there is a strong association between her repetitive use of dots as a form of art therapy. She has covered pumpkins, rooms and even buildings in polka dots. The dot motif characterises her work and the idea of repetition feeds into the concept of mindfulness which is increasingly valued for improved wellbeing. The endless repetition of dots is said to relate to big ideas about infinity and the cosmos. In this sense, her humble pumpkin could be understood in both micro terms – insofar as it relates to aspects of her personal life – and macro terms, insofar as it relates to some of the biggest ideas human beings ponder.
How do you think that the repetitive action of drawing dots could help with how a person is feeling? How could dots relate to infinity and space? Would the pumpkin be less interesting or successful if it was multi-coloured and/or modelled to look more realistic?