#SeeHer Story airs on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles
At 90, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is more creative – and prolific – than ever. While her art started as a personal practice to make sense of the world, her work quickly became a global phenomenon and touched the lives of millions of people.
To showcase the life of such an inspiring woman, #SeeHer Story will celebrate Kusama in this week’s episode. The goal of #SeeHer Story, a digital video series from Katie Couric Media and PEOPLE, is to recognize female trailblazers throughout the past 100 years and celebrate how they’ve helped to shape history and culture.
As this year marks the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, the series hopes to commemorate such an important time for women in history by recognizing fearless women who have made strides for others to follow in their footsteps.
Born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, Kusama turned to art at a young age. When she began to experience anxiety and hallucinations, she found art to be a therapeutic way to cope with her mental health.
“I was in a separate world, and I was drawing in order to document the sights I saw there,” she said in the clip.
Though her parents wanted her to focus on finding a husband, Kusama was set on becoming an artist, and had her first solo art show in Japan at 23 and moved to New York at 27.
Her work as an artist quickly took off in America as she found success with her Infinity Net paintings and eccentric performances.
However, Kusama continued to struggle with her mental health and decided to move back to Japan in 1974 and enter a private hospital, where she remains today.
Still, Kusama creates art daily and works on even bigger pieces like her Narcissus Gardens.
In 2012, retrospectives in New York and London brought Kusama back into the spotlight. To this day, her immersive Infinity Rooms boast record-breaking lines to get in (perhaps more so than ever, as they’re incredibly Instagrammable) and her paintings have sold for over $8 million.
Even her iconic polka dots made their way into pop culture as phone cases, purses and parade floats.
In 2020, Kusama will take over all 250 acres of New York’s Botanical Garden with a nature-themed presentation, marking her biggest show yet.
“I have been an artist for over 20 years and have appreciated life every day. When I feel sad and low, my soul as an artist is what has kept me going,” Kusama said in the video. “It gave me power and hope. Art made me who I am.”
#SeeHer Story will also be a regular feature in PEOPLE’s print edition, the weekday morning newsletter Wake-Up Call with Katie Couric, on PeopleTV’s entertainment show PEOPLE Now as well as on PEOPLE Now Weekend.