Back in 1998 when I still lived in a Central New Jersey suburb, but a year or so after completing a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan, I spent a vacation week in Manhattan at the West Village apartment of my friend Christina (also a UMich fellow). She was away at a spa and generously offered her empty place to see how I liked living urban.

My Self-Portrait in the Early Afternoon Makes My Heart Tremble with Happiness

I had a mostly museum-filled week that August and I left Christina a fun little ‘diary’ of what I did each day. One of the most memorable things about the week — aside from inadvertently landing a job at — was seeing the art of Yayoi Kusama. What really stuck with me was an ironing board covered in cloth, red and white polka-dotted penises. So out there and raw.

This all hit me when I opened New York magazine recently and saw there would be a Kusama exhibit at the Whitney. I visited this evening with my friend Chuck and we had a great time walking through the various periods of Kusama’s life. She’s still alive and still creating. Such an evolution of vision and statement in her pieces.

My favorite of the exhibit is pictured here. Kusama created it in 2009 when she was 80 years old. It’s called “My Self-Portrait in the Early Afternoon Makes My Heart Tremble with Happiness.” That the artist voluntarily entered a home for the mentally ill in her native Japan back in the 1970s and had a studio set up there in the ’90s makes it bracing yet poignant.

I feel so touched by her.