Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors at the AGO

"With just one polka dot, nothing can be achieved.

In the universe, there is the sun, the moon, the earth, and hundreds of millions of stars. All of us live in the unfathomable mystery and infinitude of the universe."

- Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

I can't remember when I first heard about Yayoi Kusama and her stunning Infinity Mirrors exhibitbut I do know that I've been wanting and trying to see it for years. It has seemed like wherever I have travelled, the show has either just finished or is starting after I leave!

When I heard last year that the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) was going to be hosting this exhibition (the only Canadian city to do so), I've eagerly awaited its arrival. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the media preview of this extraordinary show, which officially opened to members of the public this past weekend to overwhelming demand.

When the AGO opened the booking portal for tickets in January, thousands and thousands of people logged in, waiting for hours to snag a ticket to one of the hottest shows of the year. In three days, the AGO sold an astonishing 30,000 tickets, selling out well before the show opened! One of the most exciting things about this show is that it is drawing attention and a younger audience to the AGO, generating energy and excitement which will hopefully continue into the future attracting more shows like this one. For myself, this show inspired me to buy a membership to the AGO to explore everything the Gallery has to offer and engage in new ways.  

Infinity Mirrors and the dreamworlds they create in six immersive rooms have to be seen in person to get the full effect. Yes, they look beautiful in photos, but are even more dazzling to experience. These worlds were created by Yayoi Kusama, the brilliantly talented 88 year old artist who lives in Tokyo (voluntarily in a mental hospital since 1977), and still actively creates art today.  In addition to experiencing six of Kusama's most iconic works, there are more than 90 paintings (including her early Infinity Net paintings), sculptures, photographs, rare archival materials, and works on paper from the 1950s to current day to see.

In addition to the ticketed exhibit, you can see her 'Narcissus Garden' installation on the second floor (on view from February 24 - April 29, 2018), a beautiful 'garden' made of mirrored balls, which is open to general admission.

Kusama has been creating art and breaking new ground for over 60 years. During her time in New York (between 158 - 1973), Kusama moved in circles with fellow artists Andy Warhol and Allan Kaprow. It was during this time that she began creating her signature polka dot and net designs, transforming them into paintings, soft sculptures, installations, and performance-based art.

The first use of mirrors came with Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field, 1965 (the red-and-white polka dot themed installation), which multiplied and magnified the repetitive effect she was hoping to achieve, transcending physical limitations and creating an immersive experience. 

Kusama was the first woman to have a solo presentation at Venice's Biennale's Japanese Pavilion in 1993, and was named on of the world's most influential people by Time Magazine in 2016.

Yayoi Kusama Pumpkins

Above, the famous 'Kusama pumpkins' can be viewed in her work called All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins. You aren't allowed to take photos while inside the room, but you can when outside the door looking in. You will also be escorted inside with a member of staff. This is apparently due to pumpkins being damaged in previous exhibitions held elsewhere and the art is fragile.

The pumpkins first appeared in some of Kusama’s drawings from the late 1940s and has regularly shown up in her paintings, sculptures, drawings and installations. Her first pumpkin mirrored room was staged in 1991 and later at the 1993 Venice Biennale. The concept of this room is for viewers to be transported into a space which recalls fairytales and fantasy. 

 

Love Forever is a trippy feast for your eyes, allowing up to two viewers to look through small peepholes into this room. Looking inside, you can see yourself in a mirror directly opposite as well as the other viewer, making it feel quite voyeuristic. Kusama was experimenting with new technology when she created this room, which features dazzling lights, patterns and colours which change every few seconds. Her 1966 exhibition featured this work and she distributed buttons with her 'Love Forever' message printed on them. For her, this work stood for civil rights, sexual liberation, and the anti-war movement in the 1960s. 

 

The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away takes you into a world of lights and mirrors resembling a galaxy. Hundreds of LED lights flicker and sparkle while you are inside activating the environment and becoming immersed into the infinite space. It is absolutely breathtaking to experience! I just wish that you could have longer than the allocated 30 seconds to experience it and really take it in. 

 

Phalli’s Field arose from Kusama wanting a new way to create a hallucinatory scene of phallic-like shapes covered in red polka dots. Up until the point this room was created, Kusama had spent much of her time between 1962 and 1964 sewing thousands of stuffed fabric tubes and affixing them to furniture and other objects to create her sculptures; however, this became physically and mentally tiring. Her breakthrough moment came when she began to use mirrors to achieve the repetitive effect she envisioned, transcending her physical limitations, and making it an immersive experience for viewers. 

 

Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity is another mesmerizing world comprised of flickering gold lanterns that seem to go on forever into black infinite space. Kusama's room is a reflection on the experience of death and potential afterlife, recalling the Japanese tradition of toro nagashi, a ceremony which sees paper lanterns float down a river to guide ancestral spirits back to the resting places on the final night of the summer Obon Festival. 

 

Dots Obsession – Love Transformed Into Dots has you enter a large gallery room which has a rosy glow from the large pink polka-dotted balloons hanging from the ceiling and placed around the floor. Near the back of the room, you can enter a room inside one of the balloons, feeling a bit like you are entering a fuschia fairy-tale world. On the other end of the room, you get the opposite experience by peering into a small hole into a dazzling pink infinity mirror room. 

 

The Obliteration Room is the final room of the exhibit. This room invites you to participate in completing the work. Upon entering the stark white room, set up to look like an everyday home with everyday objects, you are handed a sheet of coloured dot stickers and invited to place them anywhere in the room and on objects. I would love to see what this room looks like when the exhibition closes! Kusama's concept of obliteration is to find and create new expression on this white space as the coloured dots invite each visitor to participate on a journey to infinity one dot at a time. 

For each of the mirrored rooms, you will join a line to enter. You may have the opportunity to go in by yourself or with two to four other people. You need to leave your bags just outside the exhibit (watched by AGO staff) and can enter for twenty to thirty seconds depending on the room. The staff have a stopwatch to time each entry and will give a soft knock on the door to let you know when five seconds are left. I wish that you could have more time inside the rooms as they are so dazzling and extraordinary that there just isn't enough time to properly take everything in. But, on the other hand, it forces you to be present and enjoy the moments you do have. 

This extraordinary show is a visual delight, and you are encouraged to share your photos with the hashtag #infinitekusama. Part of the appeal and high demand to see Kusama's show has been driven through photos shared through Instagram. While you can bring your cameras and smartphones, you cannot bring in tripods or selfie sticks. 

There will be a new batch of tickets released by the AGO on Tuesday March 6th at 10am online only. There will also be a very limited number of same-day timed tickets available on-site at the gallery. The show runs from March 3 to May 27, 2018. 

WMW's Gift Guide for Travel Lovers

Looking for some inspiration for the travel obsessed, wanderlust suffering globetrotter in your life? Well, speaking as one of those people, I'm sharing both my favourite things and what's on my wish list this year in hopes to inspire some ideas! Nothing listed here is sponsored in any way. Some things I own and others I covet, and they are all purely things that I love, think are great, and happy to recommend to others! 

 

For the Frequent Flier

Away Suitcases

Photo: Away via Conde Nast Traveler 

Photo: Away via Conde Nast Traveler 

One of the hottest, and most Instagrammable, suitcases on the block, Away is attracting people for its chic, minimalist style and embedded technology. Away makes what they call 'thoughtful' luggage, developed from hundreds of travel stories. Their suitcases feature unbreakable shells, interior compartments - and, one of the coolest elements - built-in USB chargers! The built-in battery can be easily removed, is TSA approved, and is compliant with all airline policies. You can choose from the popular carry-on luggage style through to large checked baggage sizes in a multitude of colours. While I normally pick sleek black, I just love this perfect pink shade. 

Away takes a direct-to-consumer approach. By doing this, the suitcases are made with the same high quality materials as other premium luggage brands but can charge less due to having lower overheads. And, importantly, Away guarantees their quality for life. 

On the other end of the luggage spectrum is the beautiful vintage inspired and designed Steamline Luggage. There are a variety of different collection styles and sizes to pick from. One of my favourites is the Sweetheart Collection, a selection of light-coloured cases (white and tan) on the exterior with a beautifully printed lining inside of foliage, flowers and birds, making a beautiful contrast. In the photos below is another collection I love called the Architect in cream. This collection is inspired by Art Deco prints for its interior lining. 

While the design may be vintage, the cases are modern in function with features like an extendable trolley handle, buckled leather straps, two TSA-approved locks, and silent-glide wheels. Inside, you will find zippered lid pockets and a detachable door-hangar washbag to keep your belongings organized. SteamLine has also included a new ripstop cover to protect the case. The carry-on size also meets the cabin luggage size requirements for most major airlines. 

SteamLine ships all over the world, and also provides a full refund if you are not happy providing the luggage is unused. 

Photo: SteamLine Luggage

Photo: SteamLine Luggage

I received a Coach passport case monogrammed with my initials a few years ago and it is one of my chicest travel accessories. It's a timeless gift and a lovely little luxury to give someone. If you have the time to have it monogrammed, it ups the luxury factor that much more through personalization. The quality of the leather is fantastic, contains multiple slots to carry various travel documents, frequent flier cards, and other important documents, and is durable. 

Photo: Lululemon

Photo: Lululemon

I have used Lululemon's duffel bags for years - purely for travel! I call it my 'Mary Poppins' bag due to its ability to fit an unbelievable amount of things in it and still look chic while carrying it. This bag is perfect for a city break or weekend away somewhere. I have found these bags to be very durable and last a long time. 

This particular bag is water-repellent, contains laptop storage (a padded pocket that fits a 15" laptop), a heat-resistant pocket (helpful for a hair straightener), multiple compartments and pockets, and comes in various colours and patters

Photo: Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Pillow

Photo: Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Pillow

Ok, so a travel pillow may not be the most exciting present but bear with me. After trying many different travel pillows over the years, this is now my most trusted one. This pillow is actually comfortable as it is made with high quality memory foam. When I fall asleep on planes, my head tends to bob all over the place so I put this on and it supports my neck properly with 360 degree support. It's easy to pack as it squishes and folds up neatly into its bag, you can tie it to your carry-on bag to save room, and it is washable. It also comes with a two year satisfaction warranty. Forget blow-up, down, or beanbag style travel pillows - this is a travel winner. 

Capture Memories

Olympus PEN Camera

Photo: Olympus PEN

Photo: Olympus PEN

On my wish list for ages has been the Olympus PEN camera. It is beautiful in design with its vintage style, portable so it is easy to carry around, and has high specs and top quality interchangeable lenses so it can produce beautiful images. I've been looking for a terrific camera that is more easily transportable than my DLSR, but produces better quality images than a standard point-and-shoot or smartphone. It's also got built in wi-fi so you can upload and share your images quickly. The other great thing about it that I love are the stylish accessories that you can pick from including leather neck straps, lens covers, body jackets, and bags. There is a more expensive, higher quality version which is the PEN-F, and a lower cost but still high quality version, which is the PEN-E. 

Photo: Olympus PEN 

Photo: Olympus PEN 

Create Experiences 

Eurostar E-Voucher

Photo: Eurostar

Photo: Eurostar

Is there a better gift than being able to jet someone off to Paris for the weekend? The Eurostar is chic and so easy to use - and often has terrific deals, including on Boxing Day. You can buy e-vouchers from Eurostar in either a pre-selected amount or amount of your choosing in GBP, EUR, or USD. I love this idea because it provides something to look forward to and creates a memory. 

Other Experience Ideas

  • Gift certificate from an airline to put towards airfare for a destination of their dreams, much-needed getaway, or upgrade. 
  • Pre-book tickets if you know they are going to a particular destination and their dates, such as museum tickets, tickets to a special exhibition, a hotel upgrade, special tour, or restaurant. 
  • Currency for the destination they are going so they can buy themselves something special, especially if money is tight or it's been spent on the logistics and accommodation! 

 

Wearable Memories

Jet Set Candy

jetset.gif

I first discovered Jet Set Candy in December 2015 when I visited a Christmas Market at NYC'S Grand Central Station. I instantly fell in love with the beautiful wanderlust inspired jewelry and charms representing all things travel. Launched in October 2014, Jet Set Candy is one of the first premium lines of travel souvenirs which are modern and wearable keepsakes. Many of the pieces are collectible, such as the fun airport code charms that can be put on a necklace or used as a charm on a bracelet.  The line was designed by Nicole Parker King, who wanted to design a thoughtful, stylish, and classic line of travel souvenirs to redefine what is available for travel lovers. The pieces are collectible and made in either sterling silver, 14k vermeil, or solid gold. 

In addition to a YYZ charm, I also picked up a silver ring with a plane on it, which was instructed by Nicole's mom to wear facing out on outbound trips and facing in on inbound trips. The packaging is also so thoughtful from the beautifully printed tissue paper with maps, beautiful navy blue suede jewelry pouches, and travel inspired quotes on the inside of the box. 

One of my all-time favourite shops, Canadian jewelry and lifestyle shop Bluboho, has grown from a lovely shop in downtown Oakville, Ontario to adding two additional shops in Toronto, Canada (on Queen West and Yonge and Eglinton). Everything about these shops is special from the thoughtfully curated pieces which each have a meaning to the warm and welcoming staff led by Cheryl and Maggie who make you feel like an old friend from the first time you meet. The name 'Bluboho' represents a connection to others, nature and unlimited possibility, with references to sea and sky, and evokes a luxurious, free-spirited lifestyle and lust for life. 

Among the treasures you'll find in their beautifully designed shops are pieces symbolizing travel, wanderlust, adventure, and freedom. For example, I love the silver bar bracelets and necklaces with engraved quotes to speak to your present or desired state of mind or feelings. Two of my favourite quotes read 'Not all who wander are lost' and 'Fortune favours the brave'. Or,  choose a beautiful feather bracelet or birds in flight necklace to symbolize freedom, flight, and exploring new places. 

Bluboho has a stunning Instagram account that will have you wanting to buy everything they post, as well as an online shop. If you're in the Toronto area, pop-in and say hi to Maggie, Cheryl, and the team and see their treasures in person!

Photo: Pottery Barn

Photo: Pottery Barn

Think of this as jewelry for your luggage. For a chic, yet inexpensive, gift, jump onto Pottery Barn's website to order a personalized luggage tag. You can choose from a dark brown or black leather strap which holds a silver plated tag. Monogramming is available for a small extra charge with up to 15 characters per line. This is a fantastic gift for a stylish traveler, a colleague or boss, or someone who frequently travels for business to up the professionalism and luxury factor. I chose to do mine and the ones I have given friends with name initials, such as the one shown in the photo above. 

I adore the concept of this jewelry line. Inspired by the line 'Every memory has a place', Coordinates Collection engraves the specific latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of a place special to you or the recipient of your gift. The pieces are modern, chic, and stylish, and are a unique, deeply personal wearable memory. Is there a memorable holiday that you took? Have they lived abroad? Are they an expat and want to wear a piece of home? The possibilities are endless. 

You can choose a selection of bracelets, bangles, cuffs, and necklaces in sterling silver and gold at a range of price points from the very affordable to much more expensive pieces that incorporate precious gems and diamonds. This will be a gift that will delight and touch anyone you give this to. 

The 36 Hours In... series by the New York Times is a classic gift to either inspire ideas for new travels and/or help plan an upcoming trip. You can choose larger guides that cover Europe or USA and Canada, or smaller guides focused on a smaller region or country. It makes a terrific coffee table book as it will no doubt inspire conversation about favourite travel memories or dream destinations. I use it as a critical guide in helping inspire places to go for a city break or what to do while I'm there. 

Home and Lifestyle Inspiration 

Mapiful 

I discovered Mapiful through coming across their beautiful Instagram account and fell in love with their products. Mapiful creates printed map posters of not only the big, usual-suspect world cities, but many smaller cities around the world. Even cooler, you can customize your own map through their online tool of your own city or town (or that of the person you are gifting it to) to really personalize this gift. Posters are printed on museum quality paper and shipping is free worldwide. The hardest part will be trying to choose which location(s) you want!

Venice Carnevale: A Photo Story

For the past several years, I've been wanting to Venice during Carnevale time. The costumes, the wintry, mysterious atmosphere, the celebrations, and tradition. This year, I finally decided to book and experience it! 

It was everything I hoped it would be. Whether people were in full costumes, getting into the spirit with a mask, or taking in the scenes, it was a fabulous way to experience Venice. Below are just a few of the incredible costumes at this year's Venice Carnevale. 

Sketch - London's Most Glamorous Place for Afternoon Tea

Sketch has become instantly recognizable due to its iconic art deco-inspired, glamorous pink salon that is an Instagrammers dream. 

Located in Mayfair, Sketch hosts a series of bars and restaurants over two stories in a converted 18th century building. 

The Gallery, designed by India Mahdavi and David Shrigley, is the eponymous room in Sketch that features the afternoon tea, which, in my opinion (and probably many others, considering how busy it gets), is the most glamorous in London! If you're looking for a classic experience in a beautiful room, particularly with a group of girlfriends, this is a perfect place. To note, it is also open for dinner, with creatively styled and interpreted classic dishes. 

 

Sketch London Afternoon Tea

From the moment you arrive at Sketch, the service is impeccable, adding to the luxurious experience you have there. Start by choosing either a classic or Champagne afternoon tea; as you can see above, we went with the Champagne tea! Served in classic Champagne glasses, it automatically ups the glam factor. Sip your champagne slowly while taking in your surroundings, which include 239 pieces of quirky artwork lining the walls by David Shrigley - the largest group of original drawings Shrigley has ever exhibited.  

Start with creative and delicious sandwiches, served on an afternoon tea cake stand, created from stacked cups and saucers. The tastiest ones in my opinion are the coronation chicken, and truffle croque monsieur. If you fancy some more, your server will gladly bring you a refill of your favourites!

But don't forget that you've got fresh scones and cakes to enjoy as well, so don't fill up too much on the sandwiches to save room for the other things! 

You can select from freshly baked, warm plan or sultana scones, served with classic clotted cream and strawberry jam. I went with a classic plain, which was delicious. It was also a nice balance between the savoury sandwiches and sweet cakes. 

The cakes offer a nice balance of flavours, from a citrus tart, to chocolate gateaux, to bubblegum marshmallow knots (very light in flavour so not overpowering), and a delicious cheesecake pudding. 

Sketch London Afternoon Tea
Sketch London Afternoon Tea
Sketch London Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea is served between 12:30pm - 4:30pm Mondays through Sundays.

sketch Afternoon Tea as from Monday 13 March:
sketch Classic Afternoon Tea, £58 per person
Champagne Afternoon Tea, £72 per person
Children's Afternoon Tea, £29 per child - including Pat the Bear

 

Oh - and don't forget to make a stop to check out the quirky, beautiful, space-like bathroom pods before you go!

On Instagram

Here are a few things I've been up to recently from my Instagram account. Follow along at @woman.meets.world!