Avant-garde Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, known particularly for her innovative use of mirrors and dots, is the subject of this picture-book biography that effectively captures the essence of her work.
Born in 1929 and raised in a traditional setting, the young Kusama chafed against the restrictions placed upon her, fleeing to New York City in her 20s. After struggling in poverty and obscurity, she eventually achieved worldwide fame, continuing to produce new work and draw crowds to this day. The illustrations evoke Kusama’s style remarkably well, and the book is enhanced by high-quality photographs of a variety of her pieces. A brief endnote provides additional background information. Unfortunately the text never refers to her lifelong struggle with mental illness, although an early spread shows her as a child drawing in a field, dwarfed by vivid, surreal flowers and pumpkins, a visual reference to the hallucinations that compelled her to create. In not mentioning the relief Kusama has found through art and her voluntary residence in a Japanese mental hospital, the book does nothing to help destigmatize mental health issues.
Works for young readers on contemporary non-Western artists are rare, and this visually striking and clearly written, if limited, contribution makes a complex artist’s work accessible and appealing. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)