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  • Writer's pictureAnn Marie Coolick

Inspiration Here and There

It's funny how we are inspired by different things around the universe but somehow they are all similarly connected. Are any thoughts completely original? After viewing the Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibition at the Hirshhorn this past winter I was completely in awe of her use of polka dots. I wondered how I could maintain the textural complexities of my work while focusing on the beauty, simplicity, and infinite possibilities of the polka dot. It became clear to me that I could deconstruct my paintings to the most simplest form of texture with the same tubes in my supply drawer that I regularly use. I mixed up my palette in a similar fashion and slabbed the paint straight onto a previously gridded canvas in a simple pattern. I named this series my Polka Daubs paintings. I thought this manifestation of the polka dot was completely original in contemporary art while still respectfully paying homage to the great Kusama. I soon learned I was slightly wrong.

Below: Polka Daubs, oil on canvas, 14" x 11" by Ann Marie Coolick. In private collection.

First, someone pointed out the uncanny resemblance of my work to Damien Hirst's Spot paintings. I was amazed and dumbfounded by the similarities especially in the color palette. How could this be when I had never seen this series of his?! I'm very familiar with his sculptural work but somehow his Spot paintings had never been on my radar. Perhaps they were buried so deep in my subconscious after 15 years being out of art school or had I truly never seen them? Hirst's artist statement also rung a similar bell. He said: "To create that structure, to do those colours, and do nothing. I suddenly got what I wanted. It was just a way of pinning down the joy of colour.”

Below: Damien Hirst's Spot paintings

Second, another person pointed out the likeness of my work to John Grande's polka dot portraits. Again, I had never seen his work before. Now I'm really beginning to feel like I don't know as much about art as I thought I did!

Below: John Grande, Courtney Dot

Perhaps it is the universal language of the polka dot that has us all subliminally connected and inspired by this simple form? After all, aren't we all inspired by similar things yet manifesting our responses in a slightly different manner? I believe that the inspiration I found in Kusama's work and the expression of my response were completely pure and honest, and I hope that while we as artists can find inspiration in other's work, that we always pay respect to the root of our inspiration. If you are an artist, has anyone ever pointed out your work as closely related to another contemporary artist? Please share your thoughts.

"A polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement... Polka dots are a way to infinity." Yayoi Kusama. Photo via Welker Media.

Below: Infinite Polka Daubs, oil on canvas, 36" x 36", Ann Marie Coolick.

Below: Confetti Polka Daubs, oil on canvas, 20" x 20", Ann Marie Coolick. In private collection.

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