Dallas Museum of Art Reveals Kusama’s Sublime Pumpkin Patch and Steichen’s Timeless Friendships
The Dallas Museum of Art’s recent acquisition of Yayoi Kusama’s All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins simultaneously inspires a contemplation of infinity and a craving for a pumpkin spice latte. The small mirrored room filled with glowing spotted pumpkins is one of Kusama’s signature Infinity Mirror Rooms.
“She creates a unique experience where you discover what is really the infinity,” Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director, said. Beginning October 1, patrons can get lost in a pumpkin patch stretching out into perpetuity.
Kusama, born in Matsumoto, Japan in 1929, is one of that nation’s most important and prolific contemporary artists. As a child, she experienced intense hallucinations, seeing polka dots everywhere. From an early age, she used art as therapy and incorporated polka dots into her artwork.
Kusama moved to New York in 1957 and worked with a variety of media including painting, soft sculpture and collage. In the 1965, she created her first Infinity Mirror Room.
“The introductions of the mirrors for her is a way to involve the spectator. As they move through the space, their movements and actions become part of the sculpture,” Anna Katherine Brodbeck, DMA’s Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, said.
Kusama has created 20 room-sized mirror installations and the DMA’s mirror room is the first mirror pumpkin room Kusama has created since 1991.
From the outside, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins looks like a small, stark, square enclosed room. Inside is a joyful, compelling and overwhelming scene consisting of 62 pumpkins in nine different sizes, perfectly placed to intrigue.
“Think of their placement as part of the artistic composition—it is deliberate, like the placement of figures in a painting and sculpture, and was carefully composed by the artist to her desired effect,” Brodbeck said.
Tickets costing $16 must be reserved online for a specific date and time. Two people will be admitted into the room for 45 seconds, escorted by a room attendant. It’s tempting to spend those 45 seconds taking photos of the spectacular piece, but engaging with infinity requires standing still and looking out in every direction.
Kusama’s affinity for pumpkins, full of seeds, is meaningful and sentimental.
“They are a type of regeneration for her. It’s about this kind of proliferation, this fertility that she was interested in,” Brodbeck said. “Her parents were also purveyors of seeds. She grew up in a nursey and she has fond childhood memories of being among the pumpkins in Japan.”
Kusama returned to Japan in 1973, suffering from ill health. She voluntarily lives in a psychiatric hospital where she continues to create a significant amount of work.
All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins is the third Kusama work in the DMA’s collection, joining Accumulation and a pair of silver shoes covered with soft-sculpture phallic forms.
“Yayoi Kusama has ignited love for contemporary art in many people. She’s one of those artists, with her life story and her works, marks a period of time in our history,” Arteaga said.
Steps away from All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins is the result of the DMA conservation team’s summer-long work. Edward Jean Steichen’s mural series, In Exaltation of Flowers, was commissioned in 1911 by Steichen’s friends, Eugene and Agnes Meyer, for their Manhattan townhouse.
The seven murals feature Steichen’s closest friends including Mercedes de Cordoba, Katharine Rhoades, Marion Beckett and Isadora Duncan. By the time the life-size murals were complete, the Meyers had sold their townhouse and the murals have not been displayed in 102 years.
Art patron and philanthropist Alice Walton loaned the murals to the DMA for the conservation as a part of Art Bridges, a non-profit foundation focused on sharing outstanding works of American art.
Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the DMA, and Laura Eva Hartman, the DMA’s Associate Paintings Conservator, oversaw the conservation. Canterbury and Hartman pieced together the history of the murals, taking that history into account as they selected the murals’ current black frames.
“I do know from written accounts that the foyer was done in black marble. The glistening gold here and there would have been really quite attractive and the rhythm would have carried you around the room,” Canterbury said during the conservation.
Their research and findings during the conservation will travel with the piece so the public can have a better understanding of the murals and the intimate nature of the work.
While visitors have less than a minute to experience infinity in All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, In Exaltation of Flowers beckons observers to linger and appreciate the beauty of an enduring friendship.
All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins will be on view from October 1, 2017 through February 25, 2018. In Exaltation of Flowers is now on display through May 28, 2018. Learn more: www.dma.org
Kimberly Richard is a North Texan with a passion for the arts. She’s worked with Theatre Three, Inc. and interned for the English National Opera and Royal Shakespeare Company. She graduated from Austin College and currently lives in Garland with her very pampered cocker spaniel, Tessa.