Before moving to the United States, Kusama wrote a letter to artist Georgia O’Keeffe asking for advice on developing her career as an artist in America: “I should like to ask you would [you] kindly show me the way to approach this life.”
O’Keeffe wrote back, “When you get to New York take your pictures under your arm and show them to anyone you think may be interested.” The two artists had a lot in common: both women’s work was inspired by forms in nature, and both painted flowers. Kusama and O’Keeffe remained friends for many years.
After she returned to Japan in 1973, Kusama had a difficult time settling back into life there. Four years later she chose to enter a care center in Tokyo, where she has lived ever since so that she can focus on making her artwork. Each day Kusama goes to her studio across the street and works on her art with a team of assistants.
Kusama’s inspiration comes from her desire to make art as a way of healing herself. In her autobiography she wrote: “I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieves my illness is to keep creating art. I followed the thread of art and somehow discovered a path that would allow me to live.”