Yayoi Kusama: Cosmic Nature at New York Botanical Garden! Japanese polka dots & pumpkins sculptures, Little Island NY.

yayoi kusama obliteration greenhouse, Flower Obsession

Dot, dot, dot! I love the zany Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama. During my NY trip, I got to see her giant pumpkins, and be part of her flower power obliteration room.

She currently has many eccentric installations on view at her Yayoi Kusama: Cosmic Nature show, at New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.

bronx botanical garden kusama giant pumpkin sculpture

Yayoi Kusama’s exhibitions are found both indoors and outdoors, harmonizing with NYBG’s ponds and greenhouses. Strolling around, I felt like Alice in Wonderland as I encountered “Dancing Pumpkin” and her other incomparable works. (Kusama is known for her gourds, so it’s fitting that Cosmic Nature is open until Halloween – Oct 31, 2021.)

OOTD: Wearing a cream puff pirate print dress by Sourpuss Clothing.

bronx botanical garden ny gardens flowers

New York Botanical Garden was founded in 1891. The living space has over a million plant species in a variety of environments, such as wetland and waterfall.

To get to the NYBG: From Manhattan, the most convenient route is via the Metro-North Railroad. Take the Metro-North Harlem local line from Grand Central Terminal to Botanical Garden Station; the ride takes 20 minutes. Then, walk across the street to the Mosholu Entrance, and you’re in.

bronx botanical garden kusama tickets museum

Tickets to Yayoi Kusama’s Cosmic Nature are available in advance via their site. I encourage you to pick up a map when you enter, as it shows where her exhibits are located throughout the gardens. (I felt like I was on a treasure hunt, as I went from place to place.)

yayoi KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature - New York Botanical Garden

Yayoi Kusama has been fascinated with the natural world ever since her childhood in Japan. Much of her art is inspired by the patterns, shapes and colors of plants and flowers, which she pushes to the point of obliteration / infinity. 

(All photos by Joey Wong.)

yayoi kusama tentacles sculptures octopus dots

Yayoi Kusama has become a household name in the past decade. After her early years in Japan, she moved to New York City and created art that vibed with the swinging, happening subculture of the 1960s. (Mod tentacles, anyone?)

Later, the artist moved back to Japan to check into a mental hospital, where she continues to live and work… at age 92!

yayoi kusama ny trees wrapped in polka dots

From the start of her career, Kusama’s works have been dotty (figuratively and literally). She experienced hallucinations since childhood, which made the world look like it was made of dots — and inspired her artistic vision.

yayoi kusama flower sculptures statues

Her giant pumpkins, flowers, and other flora-based works get the polka-dot treatment. Love how they integrate with the natural surroundings at NYBG.

I Want to Fly to the Universe face star sculpture yayoi kusama

In “My Soul Blooms Forever” (left), her flowers stretch towards the glass dome of the Conservatory’s Palms of the World Gallery. On the right. “I Want to Fly to the Universe” seems to be reacting in surprise to its reflection in the pool!

japanese fashion yayoi kusama tokyo museum exhibition art

My favorite spot was Yayoi Kusama’s first-ever obliteration greenhouse, “Flower Obsession.” Before entering, visitors receive a colorful red and black gerbera flower sticker.

nybg yayoi kusama cosmic nature Flower Obsession

They must place the sticker somewhere in the interior — which lets them take part in an ever-changing Obliteration Room. (I didn’t realize that it was “dah-mee” to put my decal on the exterior of the greenhouse, until afterwards… oops!)

yayoi kusama bronx botanic garden ny

Visitors came up with clever ways to add their stickers to the Flower Obsession. Some created long chains of flowers, which hung down from the glass panel roofs.

My sunglasses are these by Roberto Cavalli: RC 1047 Chianciano oversize frames, with gold snakes on the arms.

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama weird bizarre art

I suppose the NYBG caretakers will make a “Pikachu surprised face” much like this starfish-y sculpture, when they find my sticker here!

red Flower Obsession stickers yayoi kusama immersive

Yayoi’s Flower Obsession edges further towards obliteration over time, as more people add stickers to the furniture and walls.

Narcissus Garden yayoi Native Plant Garden ny silver balls

Be sure to visit Yayoi’s “Narcissus Garden” at New York’s botanical garden — a disruptive art piece that she introduced at Venice Biennale in 1966.

yayoi kusama cosmic nature floating metal balls Narcissus Garden

The shiny steel orbs float on the shallow pond of the Native Plant Garden. The wind changes the arrangement of the silver balls, and brings about a gentle melody as they clink together.

yayoi kusama halloween pumpkin sculpture glitter

With a glittering orange skin, Yayoi’s “Starry Pumpkin” looks like magic among the ferns.

Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity

Yayoi Kusama: Cosmic Nature had a few areas that prohibited photography — so you’ll have to come for yourself to see these areas. They include collections of her early canvases, and an Infinity Mirrored Room. Walk into a dark space, and you’ll find lit-up and dotted gourds reflected endlessly through mirrors (“Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity”).

My tentacles dress by Sourpuss Clothing matches the phallic theme in many of her works.

yayoi kusama cosmic nature tickets review nybg

Loved seeing Yayoi Kusama’s vision in the context of a gorgeous garden. Here’s another view of “Narcissus Garden” at the pond, and the back side of “I Want to Fly to the Universe.”

yayoi kusama wrapped trees new york botanical garden bronx dots fabric

Even a path through the trees gets the Yayoi treatment. The artist wrapped branches and trunks in red and white fabric, for “Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees.”

dancing pumpkin yayoi kusama cosmic nature yellow black dots

The gardens are able to hold her largest-scale works, such as “Dancing Pumpkin.” (Why choose between tentacles and pumpkins, when you can have both?). So much fun walking around and through her giant yellow-and-black-dotted bronze sculpture.

 kusama exhibit nyc garden pass

Yayoi Kusama’s works have added impact in the botanical landscape. Most of the art can also be experienced outdoors and without lineups, making Cosmic Nature a perfect outing for our time of social distancing.

japanese style museum exhibition nyc

This isn’t my first encounter with the Japanese artist. I saw also saw Yayoi Kusama’s show in Stockholm; see the review here (my hair was much shorter with an undercut at the time!). And I went to Naoshima Island in Japan, where I considered moving into one of her pumpkin houses.

I hope you’ll get a chance to see Yayoi Kusama: Cosmic Nature at NY Botanical Garden… before we all turn into pumpkins on Halloween.

little island ny Hudson River Park.

NYC always lets me scratch my itch for culture and architecture. On my recent trip, I also checked out the new Little Island at Pier 55. (Tickets are free, but you must make advance timed bookings.)

instagrammable locations little island nyc park view

The Hudson River Park area continues to be revitalized, this time with three acres of green space floating on a bed of “tulip” stilts. On Little Island, you can enjoy views of mid-town Manhattan, and experience art and music by locals.

Little Island at Pier 55 tulips stilts architecture floating

These 132 pot-shaped “tulips” suspend Little Island above the water, much like a floating leaf.

Little Island ny tickets admission attractions

Little Island’s park has a variety of topologies — go up the twisting wood stairs to discover gardens, performance spaces, food trucks, interactive op art, and more. I encourage you to visit if you’re in New York City.

travel podcast guest radio interview la carmina

And a thank you to True Travel Podcast for interviewing me about alternative travel and fashion journalism, Japan, blogging / social media and more.

I also was a guest on We Travel There travel podcast. We discuss my favorite places in Osaka, Japan, including a 666 boutique.

hipster emo fashion myspace style throwback

Wishing you a happy Halloween, with an emo-hipster outfit snap. Special shout-out to everyone who’s been reading this blog since the MySpace days… Thanks for being with me throughout all of life’s changes!


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