• Freda Mohr

Ch-ch-ch-changes & Infinity


So much has happened since I last posted my first blog here.

I have no idea how to really describe the journey, but here I am. Perhaps over time I will be able to share some more of the story, but the lowlights are such: I was in a really low place, and my introverted self pretty much hibernated.

This is the first spring in a few years where I am actually plugged in and excited about new things, and I now actually have the time to dedicate to restructuring my life. This li'l website will get a makeover in the coming months, and I really really really will begin to keep a weekly blog going here.

Are you familiar with Yayoi Kusama's work? I first encountered her as an artist by seeing an article somewhere on the Interwebs... I wish I had a link or something but y'know how it is, scrolling and scrolling and consuming massive amounts of info about this thing or the other. Anyway, her work really appealed to me because it centers repetition, a very necessary component to my own art.

When I saw that her exhibition Infinity Mirrors would be on display at the one of the Smithsonian's museums, the Hirshhorn I was elated that I would finally get the chance to explore her immersive installations. The tickets are free, DC is close to Baltimore, it would be easy!

Then I tried to actually get tickets. Six weeks in a row. Each Monday at noon, tickets are released for this exhibition, and I swear they are gone minutes later. The roller coaster of emotions I felt in this process mirrored a larger pattern I was having: EXCITEMENT! - disappointment - acceptance - determination - anxiety - EXCITEMENT! - disappointment... yeah. Finally I took to complaining on social media, like you do, and one of my lucky duck friends who had scored a group of tickets *on a day that I have off from nannying!* invited me to go with her and two other friends I hadn't seen in a while.

Day of, I woke up with a wretched stomach. I panicked for a few minutes, then realized that this was a familiar scene from my childhood. Get really excited about something, have GI issues. Oy. Guzzled some off-brand antacid, let it works its course, good as new. Ugh.

Getting there was an ordeal, one that we didn't realize was going to happen. I carpooled with my friend to the closest Metro stop. Rails closed. Rinse and repeat. Then a full garage at the station that was actually functioning. When we finally got on a damn train, 75% of my water bottle dumped into my bag. Thankfully I had a sweater in there to use as a towel? After all of that we got to DC with a little time to spare and met with our other two friends.

My first picture of the exhibit was the jersey walls with festive dots because it added to my sense of years-long anticipation. In retrospect, even though they are in-theme, they are underwhelming compared to the actual exhibit and this is my least exciting picture. Not that they were supposed to overwhelm or even just whelm, it's just a marker of how perceptions change with added experience.

Art criticism is an important aspect of art I feel, but you're not going to find much criticism here. Here, I am straight up fangirling about Kusama. Once we made our way inside, any disappointment, anxiety, or difficulty pertaining to getting in melted away because I was there! We were doing this! The onlyest disappointment was that you got a maximum of 30 seconds in each Infinity Room, which was totally fair given how many people were there to participate. Whoosh! In the room, door closed, take a selfie if you don't fumble, put the phone away to get a few seconds to be fully immersed, then door open, MOVE!

The exhibition was a combination of Infinity Rooms, paintings, sculpture, and memorabilia. The paintings and sculpture were available to look at while one was queued to get into a room, and I think they could've even been their own show. The razzle dazzle of the Infinity Rooms and the urgency of being in line in a timely fashion so you could see all of them gave less time to really see the other work. By hand, so much repetition of the same small brush stroke or small, soft motif, it all coming together to be large anxiety-reminiscent works expressing sexual frustration in such an almost innocent way.

Though the more traditional work could stand alone, I do feel those pieces bolster the Infinity Rooms so it was good for it all to be together. The rooms are indeed impressive and worthy of all their praise. They make more sense as an extension of everything else, and the use of mirrors to provide infinite repetition is marvelously clever. When inside a room, you are transported to a different place of Kusama's imagination, and I'm so glad to have been let in.

I skimmed most of the biographical content posted in the exhibition, but retained very little because there was so much to take in. Had I known I would get it in my crawl to write about the experience I would have photographed said information so I could reference it later. Live and learn. What stuck out was what I already knew by looking at her work: that Yayoi Kusama used her art as a way to process her anxiety. What I didn't know until then was that it was sexual anxiety, and that each little stuffed motif was a phallic motif. I find it incredibly brave of her to be so literal in her creation to say, "Hey, I'm scared of sex, specifically penises, so I think I'm just going to make literally thousands of them, but they'll be cute and non-offensive, and perhaps I'll get over it, because gee, I'm also horny!"

This is something I would say while girl talking with friends with whom I'm comfortable. Once upon a time I wrote and performed very confessional poetry so oddly enough, I relate to this too. At this point in my life, I've been rather private for a few years. Though I'm going to still keep a bit to myself, I feel a change inside that is creating a desire to share more of myself. Hence this long blog.

I've longed to let people back into my thought processes, and to really pursue having a body of work that is representative of my experiences. Not just through painstakingly made lace jewelry, but with words, and eventually performance again. Having been in a years-long panic-driven depression - triggered by being in love (figure that one out, I haven't completely) - I found myself in a place of desperately wanting to heal. The contrast between the moments of feeling better and then returning to the hole was unbearable so I didn't share much in that time. I was fearful of many things, and also ashamed that the only language I had at my disposal was earnestness. Earnestness sometimes is read as weakness, and I feared that judgment.

Now that I am solidly on the mend, and the good days outnumber the bad... and honestly even the bad days don't wreck me, I just honor them and take care of myself quietly... I am owning that my tone is one of being earnest. I don't want to dress up my pain with sarcasm, absurdity, or irony. I just want to be honest and share that.

The overarching lesson I personally picked up on while viewing Kusama's work was that anxiety and fear is valid, there is no need to minimize or trivialize one's fear. It is important to figure out if there is a way to work through it though, to make it more manageable. Doing something with it can make it diminish so you can move through those feelings. It's okay to admit that you're scared, and to ask others to bear witness to your process. You may be alone sometimes, but if you come to a place where you're willing to share, others will be there to get in line to listen to your story.

PS - I only have two photos of the actual Infinity Rooms, but that's only because I took video of them mostly! I'm saving those for a rainy day! Also, I neglected to document the actual names of the pieces and rooms, thank you for understanding that it was hectic!

#update #YayoiKusama #depression #InfinityMirrors #healing #anxiety

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Based in Baltimore, Maryland.

© 2017 Freda Mohr. Logo design by Paige Shuttleworth.