Art/Design, New Products

Yayoi Kusama’s first graphic biography is out

Illustrated and written by Elisa Macellari.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Sep 22, 2020

Even the most novice of art enthusiasts knows who Yayoi Kusama is—the Japanese artist that managed to become a household name in the United States and abroad with her famous dotted, patterned, and colorful work and merchandise.


This time, she comes with a new bang: while it’s not an exhibition in Chelsea that has people lined up around the block waiting to enter, it is still as impressive. A new comic-book biography of the artist has been released, following her life story, trials, and triumphs. Though there has already been a documentary about her life and art, this new graphic novel is an object to hold onto and cherish. 

Illustrated and written by Thai-Italian artist Elisa Macellari, Kusama: A Graphic Biography delves into Kusama’s coming of age story in Japan, as she went through struggles with her health conditions, hallucinations, and obsessive behaviors. A lot of Kusama’s art stems from her hallucinations and obsessive repetitions of shapes and colors, and we get to learn about this and how it started from a very early age in her life. The novel explores how Kusama channeled those struggles into her art and career, which began in Japan. Against her parents’ will, her accomplishments led her to New York City where she rose to fame.


The panels of the graphic novel describe Kusama’s anxieties and her innermost fears, which stem from a complicated family history with an overbearing mother and an unfaithful father, and explains how art was her only refuge and coping mechanism. Having discovered the work of Georgia O’Keeffe as a young woman, it inspired her to pursue a career in the arts. Macellari also tracks the eccentric artist’s early days in New York, where she connected with like-minded artists such as Donald Judd and Andy Warhol, and how she expanded her painting practices into installations, clothing, performances, and more.


This is definitely a book worth reading and having! If you’re a Kusama fan, check out her latest collaboration with Veuve Clicquot as well!


Photo via Elisa Macellari