Yayoi Kusama's Artwork & Mental Illness: An Exploration - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1535 Words
Date:  2023-01-29


Mental illness is a pattern of mental and behavior that leads to impairment or distress. Leading causes of mental illnesses always vary. Nonetheless, the definition of mental illnesses majorly depends on how people can think to perceive and behave. This is usually attributed to different functions and regions of the brain. Furthermore, mental illness is regarded as part of mental health. Consequently, this work will elucidate on Yayoi Kusama's artworks and its relevance to mental illness.

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Mental Illness

Mental illness can also be described as conditions of mental health that usually upset thinking and mood of human beings. There are different types of mental disorders, which include schizophrenia, depression, addictive behavior, and depression. Majority of people express various concerns about mental health at different times. Mental health concern can be termed as being a mental disorder, especially when ongoing symptoms lead to stress.

Individuals who suffer from mental disorders do not prefer to engage in conversations about it, and the most common type of mental disorder is known as anxiety disorders (Applin p. 6). This is characterized by severe anxiety and fear, which is attributed to particular situations. Individuals who have anxiety disorders frequently try to evade being exposed to anything that can elicit anxiety. Panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, are known to be some of the examples of anxiety disorders.

Mood disorders, on the other hand, can also be referred to as depressive disorders. People who have such conditions experience changes in mood due to depression. Mood disorders can include bipolar disorder, persistent depressive order, and seasonal affective disorder. The seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression mainly stimulated due to the absence of daylight.

19th and 20-21st-Century ArtWorks that Address the Topic of Mental Illness

The Woman (1953)

After migrating to the United States, Yayoi Kusama embarked on major artworks that could influence her life. One of the first significant works she embraced was watercolors. On paper, the first artworks of Yayoi Kusama represent how she was prepared to adapt western art. The woman is among the first artwork watercolor is a representation of biomorphic form together with dots at the center. This work is used to demonstrate how Yayoi Kusama continued to struggle with conditions such as anxiety and mental illnesses.

Yayoi Kusama is one of the Japanese who has been able to cope up with psychological problems, especially when she was growing up as a young kid. Her art is mainly inspired because of the condition of mental health. During her childhood days, Yayoi Kusama's mother abused her; hence, she started to suffer from a condition known as audio-visual hallucinations. This is a condition which she has continued to experience in her entire lifetime. Much of her adult life, she resided in New York and later on came back to Japan.

Apart from experiencing mental illness, Yayoi Kusama has used that experience as a point of empowerment. In the face of social oppression and artistic, undoubtedly, Yayoi Kusama has been in a position of proving that indeed she is brave. Taken all together, this is predominantly attributed to her ability to cope up with challenges such as mental illnesses. Additionally, Yayoi Kusama's ability to turn art into a platform of therapy is a clear illustration of mental release power.

The early life of Yayoi Kusama has characterized controversy because, on several occasions, she was traumatized by post-war surroundings in Japan, her dispirited father and being brought up by an authoritarian mother. Yayoi Kusama has experienced hallucinations and excessive compulsive behavior. In her publication of 2005, she is quoted saying that she grew up being hearing conversations about the risks associated with making friends with the opposite sex.

Therefore, even when Yayoi Kusama reached the puberty stage a stage when the majority of the girls are usually interested with people of the opposite sex, she was not able to get rid of an obsession with sex. Yayoi Kusama's phobia and fear of men increased, hence, resulting in extreme fear of anything phallic. Yayoi Kusama portrays creativity in the field of arts, especially as a way of self-expression. However, there is something unique that can be discussed on how she can use her external expression in the field of art in order to understand the inner self.

Infinity Mirrored Room, the Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2016)

Yayoi Kusama started her journey of infinity mirror room series as early as 1960; hence, she has been able to create a total of twenty rooms. These rooms represent installations, soft sculptures, and paintings. Every infinity room comprises of dark spaces lined in mirrors. The quiet places show the inevitability of death and life, which have been some of the subjects that fascinated Yayoi since her childhood days.

The Pacific Ocean is considered to be one of the paintings that can be associated with the conditions of hallucinations that she was going through. Conversely, in order to begin a journey of new life, Yayoi traveled to New York. On the plane, Yayoi Kusama remembers how she looked out of the window and was able to observe nets on of the ocean that was expanding.

Yayoi Kusama asserts that she has never had an interest in sex a condition that she attributes to her childhood. On the contrary, when she was as a resident of New York, she started to develop an interest in artwork henceforth, creating work with soft sculptures which were used to demonstrate Yayoi Kusama's sexual anxieties.

The work of Yayoi Kusama is a mirror of her mind, including ethereal paintings and sculptures. She is well known for various attributes which include protruding phallic objects recurring dots and infinity nets which portray her soul (Dailey p.29). Yayoi Kusama has used art across her entire life in order to reveal trauma during childhood days, oppression, and hallucinations (Shamberger p.10). Also, she has been able to create some of the leading psychological artworks globally.

Correspondingly, in one of her documents titled Kusama infinity, she traces the vision of art right from the moments when she experienced war as a child in Japan (Dailey p. 26). As a result, this created self-obliteration sense as a way of countering self-obliteration that was stimulated by trauma, Yayoi Kusama decided to start painting at the age of ten. Yayoi Kusama's artwork originated from her childhood days in wartime and prewar Japan. Without forgetting working in factories, constructing war parachutes and the experience of disconnecting with her parents and also difficult times she experienced with her mother.

The work of Yayoi Kusama is very crucial as it forms part of art in therapy and mental health ties. Nevertheless, in the western art world, presentation of Yayoi's work is in the sense of otherness, which can also be observed in the culture of Japanese. She reveals that painting is the only platform that could play a vital role in releasing what she was observing in her mind (Ferrell p.12). Translation of hallucinations into paintings, fortunately, could also be used to cure her diseases.

As an artist, Yayoi Kusama art is closely linked to her mental health. After the marginalization of the artist in America, Yayoi Kusama's success eventually diminished as a result of the male-dominated art world. As a result, she decided to travel back to Japan, a place characterized by conservatism in the art world. She was also isolated by her family, thus, suffering from deep depression. Yayoi Kusama attempted to commit suicide, but she discovered a hospital that enabled her to begin recovering from depression by providing art therapy.

Indeed art played a crucial role in saving the life of Yayoi Kusama, especially when she was suffering from depression. When she was first admitted, Yayoi Kusama turned to Collage as her preferred way of expression, also, in her document titled Infinity she reflects on the importance of art in her life and how art is a force of peace internationally (Kusama p.8). Furthermore, Yayoi Kusama made commonly known Collage, which symbolized reading of Yayoi Kusama's mind.

In the absence of art in the life of Yayoi Kusama, life could have been hard bearing in mind the terrifying state of hallucination at the age of ten. Yayoi Kusama managed to remedy her experiences through art, therefore, acknowledging that art is a platform of eliminating negative stigmas originating from mental illnesses.


In conclusion, mental illness is a common condition that usually affects almost every member of a population, including old and young people. Taken all together, it is clear that, Yayoi Kusama is one of the artists who describe how mental illness was a barrier in her entire life, especially during her childhood days. This demonstrates how she asserts that artwork played an essential role in ensuring that she recuperates from mental illness.

Works Cited

Applin Jo. Yayoi Kusama: Infinity mirror room-Phalli's field. MIT Press, 2012.

Dailey, Meg. "YAYOI KUSAMA: ART AS AN ESCAPE." (2016). Accessed on July 26th, 2019 from http://www.academia.edu/download/52253271/YAYOI_KUSAMA-ART_AS_AN_ESCAPE_ISP_2016_MEGAN_DAILEY.pdf

Ferrell, Susanna S. "Pattern and disorder: Anxiety and the art of Yayoi Kusama." (2015).

Kusama, Yayoi. Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama. Tate Enterprises Ltd, 2013.

Shamberger, Rene. "Yayoi Kusama a Stepping stone for change In Japan." (2018).

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Yayoi Kusama's Artwork & Mental Illness: An Exploration - Essay Sample. (2023, Jan 29). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/yayoi-kusamas-artwork-mental-illness-an-exploration-essay-sample

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