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Light and Color Play with Yayoi Kusama (lesson plan)

Abstract

In this lesson students will create their own light container using light and color and make connections with Yayoi Kusama’s Light of Life.

Grade Levels
Pre-K
NC Standards Correlations
Visual Arts
Approaches to Play and Learning
APL-1
Language Development and Communication
LDC-2, LDC-3, LDC-5
Cognitive Development
CD-4, CD-5

Artwork Related to this Lesson

  • LIGHT OF LIFE

    LIGHT OF LIFE, by Yayoi Kusama

    Among Kusama’s most well-known and celebrated works, are her “infinity rooms”...

    learn more

Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students will explore the concept of infinity.
  2. Students will identify repeating colors and patterns in the artwork.
  3. Students will make their own device to experience light, color, and reflection.
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Activities

Look:

Introduce Yayoi Kusama’s Light of Life by showing students this video. Share the following information about how the experience interacting with Yayoi Kusama’s Light of Life is different in person.

  • Tell the students that when they see this work of art at the museum they would peek into a hole in the side of a chamber to see a small room covered in mirrors and lights. Kusuma calls this an “infinity room”. The glowing lights and mirrored reflections seem to go on infinitely, forever and ever without ending. Infinity is a big idea that can be experienced in this room. The room doesn’t seem to stop.
  • Share with the students that they would also see their own reflection many times in the mirrors. They become part of the art.

Use the below questions to start a conversation about the video.

  • What did you see repeating in the video? (Colors? Patterns? Faces?)
  • What do you imagine it would feel like to look inside this room?
  • Do you have a special space where you like to be creative and where anything is possible (e.g. a fort? Your room? A playhouse? school?)?
  • What other things do you know about or can imagine that are never-ending?

The below information is to connect and extend student observations. When relevant, share the information that best supports the conversation.

  • Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who is currently living and working in Japan at 91 years old as of 2020 (born 1929).
  • Kusama created this mirrored environment where patterns, lights, and reflections are repeated in this room.
  • Kusama has always been interested in dots. Her dots made her think of the stars in the sky and how many there are! It made her think about the concept of infinity. She turned her drawings of dots into paintings, sculptures, and rooms filled with dots.
  • Some people told her that she shouldn’t be an artist and that her art had to follow certain rules. Life was not always easy for her. But, she persevered and continued to make art.

Read:

Share one or both of the following books to learn about Yayoi Kusama’s life and work, and/or further explore the concept of infinity in a developmentally appropriate way.

Yayoi Kusama From Here to Infinity – This book is written by Sarah Suzuki, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. It is about the artist’s life and her persistence in making her own creative way.

Infinity and Me – This book does a fantastic job introducing and illustrating the concept of infinity. Follow the main character as she gathers definitions from her friends and family only to discover her own understanding of infinity by the end of the book. 

Make:

Students will create their own light container and make connections with Yayoi’s Kusama’s Light of Life

Directions for Making your Light Container:

Gather your materials: an oatmeal container, rubber band, sharp tool to poke the oatmeal container (e.g. needle, thumb tack, etc.), ruler, tape, scissors, and colored cellophane, colored transparency sheets, or colored plastic wrap, and mirrored paper, mylar or heavy duty foil (cut to 6 x 10).  If you use foil, you will also need a heavier weight paper like cardstock to support the foil triangle (see below).

Materials needed for activity

Decorate the outside of the oatmeal container.

Oatmeal container

Poke holes in the bottom of the oatmeal container.

Pokes holes
Stretch colorful cellophane, colored transparency sheets, or colored plastic wrap over the bottom of the container, secure with a rubber band.

Green top

Point the container toward the light. Give each student or table a few different colors to try.

Collage of different light containers

If you want to add the reflective element, cut a 6 x10 rectangle of the reflective paper. Fold the paper into thirds with the reflective side on the inside. Make a triangle and tape the edges together. If you use foil, start with a paper like cardstock, cover it with foil, and then fold the foil-covered paper into a triangle.

Foil triangle

Place the reflective triangle inside the container and tape it down. Observe how the mirrored paper reflects the colored light.

Children's activity inspired by Kusama's Light of Life

Ask students: What did you like about that experience? What connection can you make to Yayoi Kusama’s Light of Life that we discussed earlier? What was similar? What was different?

Extension Activities:

  • Make a sparkly night sky sensory bin with 1 cup of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of water, and as much silver glitter and black liquid watercolor paint as you like. This sensory bin reminds us of the lights in Yayoi Kusama’s Light of Life and the infinite night sky.
  • Set up a light table with mirrors and other reflective materials (e.g. mylar, foil, etc.). Encourage students to make patterns with blocks and other manipulatives in front of the mirrors. Ask them to observe what happens to the block patterns in front of the reflective materials.
  • Place colored cellophane or transparency sheets in primary colors on the light table and encourage students to experiment with creating new colors.

Written by Emily Perreault, NCMA Pre-K Programs Educator

Assessments

  1. Ask questions about the artwork to assess listening and observation skills. 
  2. Observe student work in process and in completion to assess whether they followed process directions in making their light containers. 
  3. Ask questions about connections between Yayoi Kusama’s Light of Life and their own light containers.
  4. Observe student participation during making activity and/or read-aloud.

Lesson Resources

Vocabulary

  • Light
  • Immersive
  • Infinity
  • Reflection

Materials 

  • Oatmeal Container
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Construction Paper
  • Mylar or Mirrored Paper
  • Sharp Tool to poke holes in the Oatmeal Container
  • Colored Cellophane, Transparency Sheets, or Colored Plastic Wrap
  • Cardstock
  • Rubber Band

Reading List

Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity! by Sarah Suzuki and illustrated by Ellen Weinstein

Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Hi, Konnichiwa: Yayoi Kusama by Yayoi Kusama

Women in Art: 50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

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