Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Chronicling the Fight for Equality in the Arts


Photo by Don Manley | Attendees at “YaYoi ~ Infinity” flaunt their polka-dotted scarves, inspired by the work of artist Yayoi Kusama. The scarves were gifts from MIFA for supporting the Winter Film Fest.

Yayoi Kusama endured a mountain of difficulties on the road to becoming the world’s top-selling, female, visual artist.

She was born into a troubled family in a small Japanese town, in 1929, and displayed a passion for drawing, seemingly from birth. However, art was not viewed as a proper career for women at that time, in that society or in her family.

In 1958, Kusama boldly moved to New York City, hoping to find the acceptance and worldwide audience she craved. Instead, she struggled for years to garner the interest of galleries and patrons. Although her work; bold, colorful and innovative abstract paintings, collages, sculptures, films and installations, gained some favor here during the 1960s, even influencing such contemporaries as Andy Warhol, she ultimately returned to Japan in the early 1970s.

She fared no better in her home country.

Whether it was racism stemming from her Japanese ancestry, sexism – galleries weren’t doing solo shows for women during Kusama’s time in America – or the boundaries her artwork collided against, she wasn’t able to find widespread acceptance either on these shores or in Japan.

That changed drastically after a 1989 retrospective in New York City that led to Kusama’s work being re-evaluated and gaining widespread appreciation. Today she is known for her colorful polka dot- and pumpkin-themed designs and her massively popular mirrored Infinity Rooms.

Her journey is laid-out in the documentary, “YaYoi ~ Infinity,” which was recently as screened on Marco as part of the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts annual Winter Film Fest. The theme this season is “Women’s Struggle for Their Artistic Recognition.”

“This year, I was inspired by the ‘Me Too Movement,’ women having their voices heard, being recognized as artists and getting the recognition that they deserve,” said MIFA President Karen Swanker.

“YaYoi ~ Infinity” was the third installment in the four-film series. It was preceded by “Packed In A Trunk” and “Surviving Picasso.” The curtain rises on the next and final film, “Coco Before Chanel” – the story of the seminal fashion designer – at 10 AM, February 20.

MIFA began the Winter Film Fest in 2006. It serves as a fundraiser for the organization’s scholarship fund, which assists local high school seniors and college students majoring in visual arts, music, performance or literary arts.

“This all goes toward helping them,” said Swanker after the credits had rolled for “YaYoi ~ Infinity.”

Marco Movies serves as the Winter Film Fest screening room. Swanker said Marco Movies President Nick Campo deserves much thanks for donating both the theater and his time to screen the films.

MIFA Vice-President Clara Avila Alber praised Swanker for her work to make the event happen.

“Karen’s been absolutely wonderful getting everything organized this year. We’ve had a very good response this year and last year, as well as the other years that I’ve been a member. It’s always very enlightening and people have a very nice reaction to the movie selection. It’s just showing life from the artist’s perspective and what art can do for people.”

For more information about the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts and its annual Winter Film Fest, visit marcoislandfoundation.org. Tickets to “Coco Before Chanel” will be available at the door. Marco Movies is located at 599 S. Collier Boulevard, in the Marco Walk Plaza.

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