Dear Artist,

A couple of months ago, Peter and I wandered into an all-white room in the Auckland Art Gallery during the first moments of an opening show. The exhibition tour had already visited London, Buenos Aires, Shanghai and other hotspots. The room, set up like a typical New Zealand home with lounges, dinette, kitchen, piano and TV, lay in wait to be covered by visitors with sticky dots. Within minutes, a flurry of grade-schoolers exercised their born obligation to vandalize the pristine little homestead with stickers. Like many starts, it was sputtered, incoherent, and a bit anti-climactic.


“Obliteration Room”
by Yayoi Kusama (b.1929)

A couple of days ago, an update from the museum came over the wire — a picture of the same white room, now obliterated with a pointellist blur — a sea of eye-jam, depthless and obscuring anything familiar.


“Every time I have had a problem, I have confronted it with the ax of art.” (Yayoi Kusama)

Even the original dots from day one, carefully placed by visitors in an attempt at personal narrative or design, were now nothing more than characterless drones in a hive of visual effect. I sensed the passage of time and all the big and little things that have happened since early December. Like a new clock, the obliteration room had hauled me through the past and into now. With the blankness eradicated, clobbered by time, a quiet nudge emerged: The most dramatic alterations are made with patience and togetherness.

In addition to this mini-epiphany, the now-covered room reminded me of one of the greatest things about painting. While hyper-individualistic, paintings have the power to go out into the world while preserving the maker’s invisibility — heaven for an introvert with verbal diarrhea. While I basked in the perverse pleasure of the obliteration room in Auckland from my spotless white bed in California, I considered my own, lifelong appetite to mark up a blank page. While art-making may appear at first to be a maneuver of the ego — an effort to stick out, to shine — perhaps in our own creative obliterations we are, in fact, merely attempting to satisfy a longing to be nobody. Could we be driven by the yearning to disappear?


“I, Kusama, am the modern Alice in Wonderland.” (Yayoi Kusama)



PS: “By obliterating one’s individual self, one returns to the infinite universe.” (Yayoi Kusama)

Esoterica: Eighty-eight-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has explored the ideas of disappearance, immersion, camouflage and covering for most of her life. The patient taking over of spaces and objects with her motifs has been an effort to connect us as collective transformers and parts to-the-billion of a larger whole. After a lifetime of art production, Kusama is now, possibly, the most famous living artist on the planet. Alone and obscure in our own studios, obliterating the blank canvas, might we attempt to disappear entirely, replaced only by the day’s creative best? “My life is a dot lost among thousands of other dots.” (Yayoi Kusama)

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Yayoi Kusama’s “Obliteration Room” continues at the Auckland Art Gallery until April 2, 2018.

The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

Sara will be speaking at the closing reception/panel discussion for the group exhibition “Nod to Mod” at Dab Art/H Gallery in Ventura, California this Saturday, February 3, 2018 from 3-5pm. All are welcome!

“Polka-dots can’t stay alone; like the communicative life of people, two or three polka-dots become movement… Polka-dots are a way to infinity.” (Yayoi Kusama)