Yayoi Kusama, LIGHT OF LIFE, 2018, mirrored box and LED lighting system, H. 86 5/8 x W. 84 1/4 x D. 72 7/8 in., North Carolina Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest) and the bequest of Carlyle Adams, with additional funding from James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach, and Dr. W. Kent Davis and Dr. Carlos Garcia-Velez

Among Yayoi Kusama’s most celebrated works are her “infinity rooms,” intimate yet expansive kaleidoscopic interiors with seemingly endless reflections that create fantastic illusions of infinite space. LIGHT OF LIFE is one of the artist’s recent works, made in 2018, when the artist was 88. It consists of a mirrored, hexagon-shaped structure with three openings or portholes at different heights that enable the viewer to look inside the “room” and experience a dazzling–and perspective-shifting–show of colored light and pattern. The work invites both a personal, individual experience and a shared, social experience. When you look inside, you see yourself reflected on the walls of the mirrored chamber, and you also see the reflections of anyone else looking through the other portals, as you all become part of the work of art.

LIGHT OF LIFE was the final acquisition made under Dr. Lawrence J. Wheeler, the NCMA’s director from 1994 to 2018. When recently asked why he wanted Kusama’s work at the NCMA, he replied, “It immediately connects to the 21st-century public, everyone is fascinated by it, and it is one of the most accessible works of contemporary art in the NCMA collection, without the need of guidance, interpretation, or explanation.”

Now 91, Kusama has had a long career as an artist and continues to experiment with new media and technology, exploring the possibility of capturing the infinite in her artwork. “Thousands of illuminated colors blinking at the speed of light,” says the artist. “Isn’t this the very illusion of Life in our transient world?”

Video Visit with Curator Jennifer Dasal

Join Jennifer Dasal, curator of modern and contemporary art, to learn about Yayoi Kusama’s LIGHT OF LIFE. Joyful, playful, serene, intense, simple, profound–LIGHT OF LIFE is all these things, and more.

The NCMA Presents Drawing Room

Join Bill Thelen, artist and founder of Lump Gallery, and artist/NCMA staff member Julia Caston for a live drawing event Friday, May 1, from 7 to 9 pm. Sign up to be one of just 100 participants creating, drawing, and hanging out (from a distance!). Joining the hosts are a cast of Triangle artists, some from the NCMA’s annual Monster Drawing Rally, to share their work and creative process. Ask questions and chat with artists while creating at home. Register to participate here, or tune into the YouTube video below to watch live or access the recorded session in the future.

Kusama-Inspired Cocktail

Our cocktail collaboration began with seeing photos and videos of Yayoi Kusama’s LIGHT OF LIFE. We wanted to capture the enigmatic hue the light creates while homing in on the idea of looking into infinity. We riffed on the classic Aviation cocktail by adding sake for a bright lychee flavor and as a nod to the artist’s Japanese heritage. See the recipe here.–Neal Benefield, General Manager, and Connor Gunipero, Bar Manager, Hawthorne and Wood, Chapel Hill 

Dramatic Readings Inspired by LIGHT OF LIFE

In the spirit of LIGHT OF LIFE, we invite you to connect with those with whom you are sheltering in place to deliver a dramatic interpretation of a Shel Silverstein poem that resonates with Kusama’s “infinity room.” Watch the video example below, then pick a poem to interpret. Share your videos with us on social media, tagging @ncartmuseum.

– “Invitation”

– “Magic”

– “The Search”

Concert Light Design

Image by Michelle Shiers

LIGHT OF LIFE uses light and space to create an immersive experience, joining the Museum collection 2018 after being featured in the NCMA’s special exhibition “You Are Here: Light, Color, and Sound Experiences.” That same summer, First Aid Kit brought their Rebel Heart tour to the Museum’s amphitheater stage as part of the summer concert series, accompanied by what Atlas Stageworks, our concert lighting contractors, dubbed one of the best light shows the Museum has hosted.That’s all thanks to First Aid Kit’s lighting director, Franki McDade. Click through this Facebook album to see some of McDade’s work and learn more about the thought behind the displays.

Infinity in Film

Enjoy a documentary on Kusama’s life, plus three experimental shorts with visuals that evoke LIGHT OF LIFE.–Maria Lopez, Manager of Film and Lecture Programs

  – Kusama: Infinity (2018). Director: Heather Lenz. An intriguing and entertaining account of Yayoi Kusama’s life and work. Watch on Hulu. Rent on YouTube or Amazon Prime.

  – Allures (1961). Director: Jordan Belson. Using abstract patterns and sound and light effects, this short film creates what the director calls “a feeling of moving into the void.” Watch on YouTube.

  -Catalog (1961). Director: John Whitney. This demo reel of Whitney’s work created with an analog computer he built became a classic of 1960s psychedelia. Watch on YouTube.

  – An Optical Poem (1938). Director: Oskar Fischinger. Geometric shapes and abstract forms spin and dance to the rhythm of Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. Watch on YouTube.

Audio Description

This audio recording is spoken by Vincent Lombardi, Audio Describer. Audio Description (AD) is narration for individuals who are blind or have low vision.

Family Activity

Get inspired by Kusama’s love of polka dots and create your own art using circular stickers. Find more ideas for family activities–plus a read-aloud video–on NCMALearn.–Courtney Klemens, Manager of Family Programs, and Emily Perreault, Pre-K Programs Educator

Connect, Kusama-style

Create fun connect-the-dots puzzles– inspired by the “Queen of Polka Dots”–for your friends and family to complete! Use Picture Dots to upload a favorite image and build your own puzzle. Try it out in this connect-the-dots puzzle (with bonus coloring sheet featuring LIGHT OF LIFE) that we created for you! It’s inspired by another iconic work of art by Yayoi Kusama.

Educational Lesson Plan

Students can use their ingenuity and problem-solving skills to create micro worlds inspired by the work of Yayoi Kusama. This NCMALearn lesson plan can be an individual or group project.–Jill Taylor, Manager of School and Teacher Programs

Dancing Lightly through Life

Follow along with this playful and all-level short yoga practice inspired by LIGHT OF LIFE. Join Patrice Graham, owner of Raleigh’s Colors of Yoga studio, to kindle your inner light and let your true self shine, just like Kusama. Enjoy more Colors of Yoga virtual classes.


May 01, 2020


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