The Anxiety of An Artist Who Doesn’t Create

“From the point of view of one who creates, everything is a gamble, a leap into the unknown.”

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama wrote this in her autobiography, Infinity Net. She’s an 80+ year old Japanese artist of international fame, who made a name for herself in New York during the 60’s as “doyenne of the counter-cultural art scene”. After returning to Japan in the 70’s, she checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo where she currently lives – and continues to produce art that’s shown worldwide.

Artist autobiographies are powerful pieces of literature. Perhaps the strongest type there is, when it comes to escaping one’s self by identifying with the thoughts of another. Vincent Van Gogh’s letters to his brother and Yayoi Kusama’s book are the two works I’ve read in recent years, and each one resonated with me in a way that may or may not be healthy. Obviously these are two individuals who were as dark and tormented on the inside as they are brilliant and electric on the outside. Both suffer(ed) from psychiatric stress, yet both created such expressive and magnificent artwork despite (or because) of this disposition. This dichotomy is overwhelmingly encouraging to me.

All the anxiety I have about the unknown, the time it would take to create truly remarkable art, to get back into the practice, to set aside time to be alone and nurture my creativity for no purpose other than to nurture my self…I’m encouraged to transform the anxiety into something remarkable. I know I have the energy in me just swirling around with no place to go – a kettle of  water on the stove, screaming that it’s boiling and has been for years.

I remember in college leaving art class on Thursday evenings and heading toward my car, excited to spend the night at home pouring over a piece I felt was on its way while my friends went out clubbing or bar-hopping. Staying in — staying inside my mind — was more satisfying to me than going out. Not necessarily more “fun”, but definitely more interesting and more important feeling. I have something great bubbling inside of me waiting to get out and this blog is sort of the prelude to whatever that is.

I do know this: it’s not to be found on social media. It’s somewhere inside my own mind, in my own space.

As Kusama said:

Before and after creating a work I fall ill, menaced by obsessions that crawl through my body – although I cannot say whether they come from inside or outside of me.

3 thoughts on “The Anxiety of An Artist Who Doesn’t Create

  1. Funny. I’m writing more now (creatively) than I ever have, and my desire to “stay in” is becoming stronger too. I passed up on going out Saturday night and stayed home writing! The weather has something to do with that too. It’s cold in the northeast, but I’m mostly just absorbed in my writing. I think it’s healthy though. 🙂

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