From psychedelic polka dots, to abstract pumpkins, large-scale sculptures, designer collaborations and published novels, it’s safe to say that Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has done it all within the span of her over half-a-century-long career. Though born in Tokyo, the maven moved to America in her 20s and soon became an innovator in the NYC avant garde art scene among the likes of Eva Hess and Andy Warhol. A feminist and social justice activist, the eccentric Kusama often performed nude to protest the Vietnam war and even went as far as writing errotic letters to president Nixon in an unconventional effort to stop the fighting.
The conceptual artist returned to her homeland in the 70s due to mental health issues and soon checked herself into a residential hospital –– where she remains today. There, Kusama wrote several novels and further interpreted her vivid hallucinations into painting. She is quoted as saying “If it were not for art, I would have killed myself a long time ago.”
Though Kusama stayed off the mainstream art radar for many decades, her aesthetic of colorful and dense polka dots garnered attention in the 80s and 90s and continued into the 21st century. Exhibits like her I’m Here, but Nothing –– a collection of minimalist furniture completely doused in a hodgepodge of neon dots from floor to ceiling –– and I Who Have Arrived in Heaven –– an infinity mirror room ladened withcolorful LED lights –– have been shown in galleries all across the globe and enjoyed by thousands of art enthusiasts.
Aside from her monumental presence in the art world, Kusama also acts as a fervent creative within the sartorial world. From her 2011 collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton –– where her iconic polka dots were featured on leather bags, shoes and other accessories –– to her Lancome sponsored lipglosses and guest-stylist gig with W magazine, Kusama’s legendary influence has made its way into the biggest names in fashion and beauty.
For those who may want a small taste of the artist’s quirky yet bold style, the key lies in sticking with a common color scheme and pattern per outfit. Though polka dots are the obvious print of choice in achieving Kusama’s eye-catching look, mustard yellow, firetruck red and royal blue solids also do the trick. And though many may not feel ballsy enough to frequently rock a bobbed red-orange wig similar to the one Kusama wears for public appearances, the same hue can be conveyed through lipsticks and nail polishes that add a striking touch to otherwise monochrome getups. So whether you chose to channel your inner Kusama through a simple change in your makeup routine or by trying out the trendy matching skirt-set look, the artist stands as an icon for women who dare to be bizarre and take risks in the coolest ways possible.