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“During her New York years, her work fused Abstract Expressionist, Minimalist and Pop art elements, with an added dash of sexuality and the baseness of bodily functions. She was a precursor of feminist art of the 1970s and much of the work that was produced in the `80s around the AIDS crisis,” she said.

Dots had a rather sad beginning for Kusama. Since her childhood, she had recurring hallucinations. A portrait of her mother that she drew when she was 10 years old shows a forlorn face covered with spots. Immersing herself in her art was a way of overcoming her fears and hallucinations.

Since her return to Japan nearly 40 years ago, Kusama has lived in a psychiatric hospital and remains on medication to prevent depression and suicidal drives. But she commutes daily to her studio and works viciously on her paintings.

Kusama, who has also made films and published several novels, acknowledged she doesn’t know where she gets her ideas. She just picks up her brush and starts drawing.

“I think, `Oh, I drew that? I was thinking that,’” she said in her characteristic unsmiling matter-of-fact style of speaking.

Over the years, Kusama has made quirky but stunning works like “Macaroni Girl,” a female figure plastered with macaroni, which expresses the fear of food; “The Visionary Flowers,” giant sculptures of twisting tulips, and “Mirrored Corridor,” a room with mirrors that delivers an illusion of a field of phallic protrusions speckled with dots.

The works are triumphant, humorous celebrations of potential, vulnerability and defiance _ like Kusama herself, who at one moment, declares herself “an artistic revolutionary,” and then, the next, mumbles: “I am so afraid, all the time, of everything.”

Her latest project is an ambitious series of paintings with whimsical motifs such as triangles and swirls, along with her trademark dots, in vibrant, almost fluorescent colors.

As Kusama worked on No. 196 in the series, the look of concentration was childlike yet fierce as she painted red dots inside white dots, one by one.

“I want to create a thousand paintings, maybe two thousand paintings, as many as I can draw,” she said. “I will keep painting until I die.”

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at http://twitter.com/yurikageyama