Wood/Kusama: Painting from Nature
Jonas Wood hails from Boston and is best known for his still lifes and love of basketball. Yayoi Kusama became one of the most prominent figures on the New York art scene with her use of geometric shapes and patterns. Each artist is attracted to natural elements for the sense of balance and comfort they bring. How they depict these feelings vary greatly, but the inspiration behind painting nature remains.
Wood likes to work from photographs and other flat images to create his graphic style. He pulls inspiration from what surrounds him, and in the case of his home and studio, that happens to be plants. He explains, “I first started painting plants after grad school as a means to paint from life. When I moved to LA I was really taken with the plant life (succulents mostly) and started painting plants more and more.” When plants entered Wood’s home, they entered his life, and subsequently, his paintings.
His wife, Shio Kusaka, is a ceramist, and he soon found himself painting her pottery as well. By imposing images of nature on the pot itself, Wood is able to create motifs of common houseplants while maintaining his stylistic mix of the organic and artificial. The plants in his work are unexpectedly geometric and rigid. For Wood, it is not the anatomy of the plants that makes them feel natural, but their mere presence in his home and closeups that we can relate to.
While Wood looks externally to photographs and his surroundings, Kusama reflects internally on her psyche and experiences. The pattern she has become known for originated as a means of escaping the vivid hallucinations she was suffering from. The repetition and quantity of the pattern allowed Kusama to paint the panic she was feeling and serves as a form of self-therapy for the artist.
She famously dresses landscapes, flowers, and most famously, pumpkins, in her iconic pattern. Kusama attributes her affection for pumpkins to their “humorous form, warm feeling, and human-like quality.” Behind the mania of colors and patterns, it is easy to recognize the simple images from life and nature. Having a natural subject can make the visuals less intimidating for the viewer. One of her recent landscapes, Mt. Fuji, was done after seeing the mountain in person for the first time. Kusama describes a similar feeling of warmth and affection for a symbol of her home country, showing the ability nature has to make humans feel at home.