In Pictures: This Japanese artist wants you to see plants differently

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
“Dancing Pumpkin” is part of the exhibition “Kusama: Cosmic Nature,” which celebrates the work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, at the New York Botanical Garden.

A giant yellow-and-black pumpkin cuts a striking contrast with the white Victorian greenhouse at the New York Botanical Garden. A mother carries her child on her back, playing peekaboo with the reflective surface as her daughter squeals in delight. 

That sense of childlike joy pervades “Kusama: Cosmic Nature,” an exhibition by Yayoi Kusama. The Japanese contemporary artist, who spent her childhood among the fields of her family’s seed nursery in Japan, comes full circle in this introspection on nature. Ms. Kusama, whose artistic journey began in her early teens, went on to become famous for her immersive, infinity-mirror installations around the world. 

In “Cosmic Nature,” polka-dotted trees, silvery orbs, and anthropomorphic sculptures delight visitors. Sketches and paintings displayed in an indoor gallery reveal her fascination with the natural world. 

Why We Wrote This

Sometimes you need a little help seeing everyday sights in a new way. In this photo essay, the whimsical work of artist Yayoi Kusama transforms the New York Botanical Garden into a fantastical world.

Against the lush backdrop of the garden, her sculpture takes on a new dimension and invites us to see the world anew.

The exhibition, which is ticketed, runs through Oct. 31, 2021. 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Detail of a watering can in Yayoi Kusama’s “Flower Obsession” installation. Visitors are given flower stickers to apply, which the artist expects to eventually obliterate the objects on display.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
On a blustery early spring day, visitors walk across the lawn with “Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees” in the background. The art exhibition is spread across the botanical garden’s 250-acre landscape.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
A close-up shows some of the 1,400 steel spheres in “Narcissus Garden,” installed in the 230-foot-long water feature of the native plant garden.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
“I Want to Fly to the Universe” greets guests from the visitor center reflecting pool.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
In a darkened space, visitors can experience “Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity.”
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
“Hymn of Life – Tulips” rises from the Hardy Pool outside the Haupt Conservatory. The exhibition includes not only outdoor sculptures but also an indoor display of drawings and paintings.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Detail of "Starry Pumpkin," which sits amid flowers and foliage in the Haupt Conservatory galleries.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
A woman in red walks through "Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees."

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