Kusama - Infinity

Kusama - Infinity

Saturday, May 12, 2018 - 7:00pm
Saturday, May 12, 2018 - 9:00pm
Cultural Partner(s)
Heather Lenz | 
US |
 2018 | 
80 minutes

The SFU screening will be preceded by the 2018 DOXA awards presentation and festival closing remarks. Tickets to the 7:00pm screening at SFU include a post-screening reception at The Post at 750 (#110-750 Hamilton St). 

At age 88, Yayoi Kusama is one of the world’s most successful living artists and one of the top-selling female artists in history. For those unfamiliar with her prolific body of work, her gargantuan polka dot paintings, phallic soft sculptures, and nude performance anti-war protests cleverly straddle pop art and the avant-garde. Her selfie-crazed Infinity Mirrors exhibitions have seen a whopping 5 million museum visitors since 2013. However, Kusama’s journey to the top of the art world wasn’t an easy climb.

Born in Matsumoto, Japan to a conservative family, Kusama was discouraged from pursuing art by everyone around her, especially her mother. After seeing Georgia O’Keeffe’s Black Iris, Kusama wrote a letter to the older American artist beseeching her help. This singular act of desperation developed into a correspondence with O’Keeffe, who encouraged Kusama to move to New York City and pursue a career as an artist.

The uncomfortable truths of Kusama’s life and work are depressingly similar to the experience of many women artists. In addition to the garden variety sexism of the art world and the indifference of largely male collectors and curators, Kusama also battled racism, poverty, and her own mental health issues. There was also the curious timing of other artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Lucas Samaras, and Andy Warhol creating similar work, only months after Kusuma’s initial shows.

Heather Lenz’s warm and expansive portrait is constructed from a wealth of archival photos, letters and film, alongside interviews with high profile curators and art collectors as well as Kusama herself. Not recognized in Japan until the 1980s (school groups in Matsumoto now go to see her work), Kusama - Infinity is a tale of redemption and survival. To this day, Kusama continues to make work in her studio, just two blocks from the psychiatric hospital where she lives. In her own words: “I hope that the power of art can make the world more peaceful.”

With this gentle philosophy in mind, we couldn’t be happier to conclude DOXA 2018 with Kusama - Infinity as our Closing Gala screening. -SC

Filmmaker

Heather Lenz

Heather Lenz is passionate about documentaries and biography films concerning people with creative minds who have not walked the beaten path, from artists and designers, to scientists, environmentalists, and inventors who push boundaries and blaze new paths. Her first short documentary about a bicycle inventor, Back to Back, was nominated for a Student Academy Award, and Lenz has written and lectured about Kusama ("Connecting the Dots: Yayoi Kusama's Anti-War Art." - Issue 22 of the London based Specialten magazine). Since earning her MFA in Cinematic Arts from USC, Lenz has worked on film and television projects in various roles including as a researcher on programs for The History Channel and Food Network and as an Associate Producer for a PBS series about the environment.