Year of Publication


Competition Category

Humanities: Critical Research


Fine Arts


Art and Visual Studies


Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama has developed her career through the continued use of the infinitely repeated polka-dot motif, an element that has not only persisted throughout the entirety of her work, but has also become a fundamental aspect of her self-presentation. Kusama has long suffered from a mental affliction called cenesthopathy, which results in intense hallucinations and anxiety attacks. Her use of the polka dot is not only a way for her to visualize her hallucinations, but also an example of the physical commitment (identified by Kusama as self-obliteration) she has to her work—her repeated application of small motifs onto expansive surfaces is at once both therapeutic and manic.

This presentation will examine Kusama’s use of the minute in the context of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theory of the minor artist, which asserts the power of minority positions and can be applied not only to Kusama’s use of infinitesimal motifs, but also to her identity as a Japanese female artist in a discipline populated predominantly by white Western males. This presentation will analyze the differences between the masculinist American work of Kusama’s contemporary, Donald Judd, and Kusama’s own style of expression. In comparing Kusama’s creation of physical spaces, such as her Infinity Mirror Rooms, and Judd’s sculptural work, I will argue that Kusama’s constant reinforcement of the minute throughout her career serves, in both cultural and female contexts, as a force of resistance and a form of empowerment.


Andrew Johnson and Isabelle Martin won the first place (tie) in the Humanities: Critical Research category.

This paper was presented at the Southeastern College Art Conference 2017 in Columbus, OH.