Connecting the Dots: Yayoi Kusama and women in wine

by Sharon Zimerman

 

A few weeks ago I went to see the Yayoi Kusama retrospective at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Outside it was grey and cold, but I left that behind as I followed the surreal, colorful dots from room to room, imagining what it means to reclaim your power through self-obliteration. What has it been like for Kusama to express herself and make a living in a male dominated industry?

The parallels to our industry were clear to me immediately. I became more engrossed and more fascinated, until it hit me: Kusama was to art what Hashizra is to women in wine.

Suddenly, all I could think was how similar it is to be involved in the world of wine. How women strive to make a mark, make and sell wine despite the macho domination of men and bombastic Bordeaux varietals by disrupting the status quo on every level. I thought of the women I know teaching about wine, working in the vineyards, marketing brands, managing visitor’s centers, designing labels and opening wineries from North to South. The consistent work of disrupting an industry by simply waking up and going to work – how Kusama!

Hashizra? Polka dot! Importing natural wines? Polka dot! Opening a restaurant? Polka dot! Creating an award-winning wine program at a hotel? Polka dot!



Now as a flamboyantly dressed old lady, Kusama focuses on dots and plants. Describing her creative impulse, Kusama said, “I convert the energy of life into dots of the universe and that energy along with love flies into the sky”. If she threw in words like terroir and/or forest floor Kusama would sound like a winemaker!

Here Kusama sounds like she is writing about her wine portfolio; “You should create a work that is so valuable it might eventually sell at a high price, but you’ve got to concentrate on how you create that artwork.”

She was becoming irresistible to me as I progressed through the halls. Kusama elucidated avant-garde feminism in her own personal, colorful way, communicating to women around the world.

Her art is enjoyable to look at. It is fun and never monotonous or lifeless, which is why I, and so many women, love her style.

How I felt about Kusama is how I feel about wine. We are “allowed” to like any wine, if we think it tastes good, or it goes with our food or it’s what we are in the mood for at the time. Wine is really just fermented grapes. Spending a fortune on a bottle does not make you a better drinker. We are voting every time we buy a wine made by a small producer, for a world of quality and passion.


All that was going through my head when suddenly I saw it.


“Grapes” by Kusama.

OMG, guys!

It isn’t large, but it had a huge impact on me. The joy and infinite ability to inspire those grapes have represented in Kusama’s unique style was perfect. A woman reclaiming the fruit of the vine. Girl, YES.

I had to Google it right away, but I didn’t find any interesting analysis. What I did find was an insane collaboration between Kusama and Veuve Clicquot (I know, right?!).

A bespoke bottle of champagne, La Grande Dame 2012, embodying the two daring women in their times- Kusama and Madame Clicquot- each a trailblazer in their own way. Kusama’s use of dots paying homage to champagne bubbles.


Kusama was not afraid to push norms, play with “serious” matters, break convention, have fun or claim space and that is what we women are doing in the wine world. I felt at home with Kusama, like I do with women in wine. Kusama is a visionary with spiritual optimism and relentless self-confidence. That is exactly what we should be too.

 

Sharon Zimerman is a wine professional. She is the manager of Zafririm Winery. She lives in the Judean Hills with her husband and four sons.