Visiting the High Museum- Yayoi Kusama exhibit, Infinity Mirrors

The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away- the Kusama exhibit with the kids

Infinity Mirrors is playful, colorful, puzzling, mathematical and enchanting. So many patterns and angles and childlike wonder. Kusama’s work is engaging for all ages and I’m so glad that the kids came with me. The lines are long. I won’t sugar coat it. This show has been sold out in museums all over the country. It was a chore for me to remember to buy the tickets months early and frankly, I was freaking proud of myself for getting to the museum on the right day and time for our entry.  And it was hard to not be at least a tiny bit dismayed because of all the hype . I’m not a professional selfie taker and I did not achieve Instagram stardom at Hashtag Infinty Mirrors #infinitymirrors but I thought it was totally worth the experience.  The lines didn’t bother me. I love to people watch, talk to strangers and have my almost grown children stuck close to me between nylon line leads. I insisted on saying penis in public and I insisted on talking to our new line friends. (My kids are accustomed to these antics but they don’t approve.)

I have to mention the rude women who became angry when we did not catch the first elevator after giving our ticket to the docent. Of course, I can’t blame Kusama or the High for this awful moment. These jerks are everywhere. They were above middle aged women with backpacks (like the High was going to be some sort of a hike today). They were livid when we let the elevator close without any people in it. Mim refused the elevator and we couldn’t figure out where the guide had gone who would escort us to the locked staircase. (Most people with disabilities require elevators. Mim requires stairs. Her vestibular system is a jumble.) Next thing we know, we are rejoining these same grumpy women in line after escaping their presence on the stairs. They were looking at Kusama’s paintings of huge square canvasses aflame with joyful circles and I wanted to make a citizen’s arrest. Should these women be allowed to view this art experience of a lifetime if they are so easily enraged over an empty elevator? I think not. I cannot fully experience the joy of Kusama with rude tourists in the museum. And “those women” are emotionally incapable of partaking of these masterpieces with their little hearts made like kidney stones. 

The rooms of mirrors and lights and repeating sparkles and polka dots was marvelous. I took my iphone pictures without flash as enforced, except in the pumpkin room. No pictures in the pumpkin room at all. You can buy pictures of the pumpkin room in the gift shop. The pumpkin room is the only room where a young woman stands inside the box of art and makes sure you do not attempt a sneaky photo. Addy asked her if anyone had tried and we laughed when she replied “all the time” People are weird. Her work evoked joy. I love evoking joy. Kusama was friends with Andy Warhol. I’m not sure I would have been friends with Kusama if we were contemporaries. I’m not cutting edge or a visionary.

Kusama’s Phalli’s Field 1965

She is wild and out there and odd and her art is larger than life. I admire her essence – her frankness and commitment to her imagination. Her mental illness flowed into her art and her honesty is refreshing and overwhelming. One of my most favorite thing in the world is to see someone’s passion- like visiting Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens or Pearl Fryar’s topiaries or my friend Sabrina’s wardrobe or my mom’s fabric stash for quilting or my friend Amy’s windowsills with love trinkets and heart shaped pebbles. When people truly love something, it just comes to life with love and joy.

Howard Finster from The Thomas E Scanlin collection
LA Times image of Pearl Fryar “A Man Named Pearl” tells the story of an ordinary man with extraordinary abilities. (Shadow Distribution)

I’m truly glad I got to see it. The memory of the holiday of 2018 will be forever infused with Kusama’s polka dots, penises, and light. And JOY.

Mim in Kusama’s exit room

The tour guide gave us advice. If you want to go back and visit the exhibit but you don’t have tickets, arrive about 5am (sit in the cold until 10am when the museum opens- closed on Mondays) and wait to be one of the 100 open walk in spots a day. She suggested coming in late January when the show is not at the very tail end but also not when people are off work. I’m probably going to try one more time. The exhibit closes February 17th, 2019 in Atlanta.


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