Travel

This Gigantic, Trippy Art Show Is About to Take Over Your Instagram

Artist Yayoi Kusama is transforming the New York Botanical Garden into a multisensory fantasyland.

Courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden.
Courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden.
Courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden.

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama once described a vivid hallucination from her childhood in the postcard-perfect mountains of Matsumoto: “I used to carry my sketchbook down to the seed-harvesting grounds,” she recalled. “I would sit among beds of violets, lost in thought. One day I suddenly looked up to find that each and every violet had its own individual, human-like facial expression, and to my astonishment they were talking to me…”  

In her vision, this chatty sea of flowers expanded as far as the eye can see-endless dots moving, widening, and engulfing everything around them including, eventually, Kusama herself. She called it “self-obliteration.”

The artist replicated these hallucinations in her sketchbook, and later in her paintings, sculptures, and installations. Iconic works like her yellow, polka-dotted Pop Art pumpkins and her infinity rooms-where visitors step in or look through a peephole at a mirrored, endless abyss of patterns and lights-earned her recognition amongst the NYC art set like Donald Judd, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol. But the advent of social media has catapulted her to a new level of fame, because if you’ve seen her works (and you probably have) you know: They look really, really cool on Instagram.

Photo courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden
Photo courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden
Photo courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden

This year you can get more fodder for your feed: The massive, multisensory exhibit Kusama: Cosmic Nature will take over the New York Botanical Garden from April 10 through October 31st (tickets are now on sale). The exhibit was postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the timing seems even better now: Kusama’s exploration into the reflective aspects of nature-and finding infinite possibilities within confined spaces-are themes we’ve become intimately familiar with in the past year.

The 250-acre outdoor space in the Bronx will be transformed into a manifestation of Kusama’s vast imagination, with larger-than-life sculptures and immersive installations nestled within the botanical garden like some surreal Alice in Wonderland set.

Walter Cicchetti/Shutterstock
Walter Cicchetti/Shutterstock
Walter Cicchetti/Shutterstock

Pose under the giant fiberglass flowers of Hymn of Life: Tulips. Peer into the 1,400 reflective spheres of the Narcissus Garden. Step into The Infinity Mirrored Room-Illusion Inside the Heart to be greeted by an inexhaustible chasm of… well, you’ll have to find out. It’s one of four brand new never-before-seen, site-specific works. 

Other new pieces include the Dancing Pumpkin, a 16-foot tall gourd immersed in a landscape of flowering plants, ferns, birches, and topiaries inspired by the sculpture (we hope it’s just a row of pumpkins); and I Want to Fly to the Universe, a 13-foot tall, polka-dotted biomorphic form that has its very own yellow face. 

The fourth new unveiling is Flower Obsession, the artist’s first-ever obliteration greenhouse. For the unfamiliar, Kusama’s  “obliteration rooms” are meant to replicate the physical experience of being engulfed by hallucinatory dots. Visitors are handed a sheet of stickers to decorate the space-empty at first, inundated by the end. This time, the blank canvas is a glass greenhouse, which visitors will plaster with flower stickers over the course of the exhibition.

Photo courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden
Photo courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden
Photo courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden

And in the ultimate marriage of art and horticulture, a floral replica of Kusama’s bold, patchwork-like painting ALONE, BURIED IN A FLOWER GARDEN (2014) will be a living piece designed by NYBG horticulturists, with plantings changing seasonally. Come in April and experience it one way, visit again in October and-like many pieces on the grounds-it will offer a totally different experience as new textures, colors, and plantings are introduced. 

The exhibition is by far the most gigantic spectacle of Kusama’s works to date-the culmination of a rollercoaster career that eventually saw the artist moving back to Japan and checking herself into a mental institution in 1977, where she still voluntarily lives today. Now 92, she’s considered the world’s most popular artist-at least according to museum attendance stats (thanks, Internet)-and the lines to see her hallucinatory works can seem like hallucinations themselves. Which is to say, you should get your timed tickets for the exhibition like, now.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer. She too finds pumpkins hilarious.

Travel

8 Suburbs Near Phoenix You Should Absolutely Visit

You could use a little space.

Discover Gilbert AZ
Discover Gilbert AZ
Discover Gilbert AZ

Phoenix is pretty great. There’s the burgeoning culinary scene, the diverse culture, the arts, of course, the sports, the great outdoors, and don’t forget about the more than 300 days of annual sunshine. We could really go on, and on, about how great this place is, but all of that greatness can blind you to all the excellence just outside it. The suburbs across The Valley are not to be missed. To encourage you to actually explore them, here’s what the best of ‘em have to offer.

Photo courtesy of Tempe Tourism
Photo courtesy of Tempe Tourism
Photo courtesy of Tempe Tourism

Tempe

Notably, Tempe is recognized as home to one of the largest universities in the country, Arizona State. But this Phoenix suburb is so much more than a college town, although it does add to its undeniable magic. Downtown Tempe plays hosts to epic arts festivals, dragon boat races, marathons and triathlons, and dozens of other events that all take place a short-distance from Tempe Town Lake, a two-mile long perennial reservoir and urban park that attracts cylicts, rowers, and active types. Break a sweat with a hike to the top of A Mountain and take in a panoramic sunset view. Or, just belly-up to the bar at one of Tempe’s innumerable craft breweries. Both are solid choices. And both can get you acquainted with this laidback Phoenix suburb.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho
Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho
Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho

Scottsdale

Nearly half of Scottsdale’s land area is dedicated to open spaces and untamed desert. Outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking, road cycling, horseback riding, and kayaking reign supreme here, and the city certainly leans toward an active, wellness-centered lifestyle. And while there’s no shortage of desert to explore, Scottsdale also claims some of the best spas in the world, award-winning restaurants, world-class golf courses, it’s the center stage for major events like luxury car auctions and sporting events, and it’s even got a bustling arts scene. This Phoenix suburb checks all of the boxes, really.

Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert
Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert
Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert

Gilbert

Not too long ago Gilbert was a sort of sleepy, far-away farm town. That’s certainly not the case anymore. Gilbert has grown exponentially, but its agricultural roots are still readily present in its personality and charm. Downtown Gilbert is home to dozens of restaurants and bars, most of which have a local, farm-to-table approach, naturally. And then there’s Agritopia, a friendly neighborhood with its very own shared garden and community spaces that include Epicenter and BARNONE, where you can order a wood-fired pizza, a can of experimental natural wine, and camp out under a canopy of trees in the open-air. It’s practically a utopia.

Mike Boening Photography
Mike Boening Photography
Mike Boening Photography

Cave Creek

A gateway to Horseshoe and Bartlett Lakes, Cave Creek’s position on the outskirts of Tonto National Forest makes it a primo spot for outdoor activities like biking and hiking and adventure by way of air balloon or horseback. Modern cowboys and gals can mosey over to The Buffalo Chip Saloon where bull riding and swing dancing are just part of a typical day. Additionally, Cave Creek has its own botanical garden, raptor rescue, and a gallery packed with person-sized crystals. And it’s all yours to discover.

Ade Russell/Flickr
Ade Russell/Flickr
Ade Russell/Flickr

Mesa

Point your GPS east and you’ll arrive in Mesa, Arizona’s third largest city. Whether you’re after outdoor adventure, looking to explore the arts and culture scene, or searching for locally made ciders and craft beer, Mesa has it all. There’s a hip, growing downtown area lined with storefronts, restaurants, theaters, and tasting rooms. And if you’re game for a little outdoor recreation, Mesa is your jumping-off point to scenic Sonoran Desert trails including Usery Mountain Regional Park, Lost Dutchman State Park, and San Tan Regional Park. Mesa is also just a short distance from The Salt River where you can cruise by wild horses and native wildlife via paddle board and Saguaro Lake is just up the road.

Experience Fountain Hills
Experience Fountain Hills
Experience Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills

At the center of this Phoenix suburb is an expansive urban park and monumental water fountain that tops out at 560-feet. The fountain in Fountain Hills is larger than the Washington Monument, and it’s three times as high as Old Faithful. Pack a picnic and spread out in the park for an afternoon where you can traverse the walkable paths, cycle around the waterway, or play a competitive bout of frisbee golf. If you swing more towards traditional golf, there’s a shortlist of premier golf courses to tee-off at. And like many of the Phoenix suburbs here, Fountain Hills is surrounded by wide-open desert and scenic vistas just waiting to be explored.

Camelback Ranch - Glendale
Camelback Ranch – Glendale
Camelback Ranch – Glendale

Glendale

Arizona sports teams including the Coyotes and Cardinals have home turf advantage in Glendale. Over the years Glendale has hosted three Super Bowl bouts and will host another in 2023. But Glendale’s not just a sports mecca for fans of professional football and hockey. This Phoenix suburb is homebase to Camelback Ranch, a modern ballpark with all the amenities where the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers take the field each season as part of Cactus League Spring Training. Take your time in Glendale into extra innings and visit Historic Old Town Glendale. Here you’ll encounter eclectic antique and vintage stores, restaurants, candy shops, and coffee houses.

Pedal Haus Brewery
Pedal Haus Brewery
Pedal Haus Brewery

Chandler 

Museums, urban parks, art galleries, and growing neighborhoods like Uptown Chandler and Downtown Chandler give this Phoenix suburb lots of appeal. Rows of palm trees line the Downtown area where you can start your day with a locally roasted coffee and organic breakfast bowl. Downtown Chandler regularly hosts community-focused events and it’s a popular hangout for craft beer drinkers. SanTan Brewery, Pedal Haus, and The Perch, with 40 beers on tap and tropical birds at every turn, all call this Phoenix suburb home.

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Lauren Topor Reichert is a Phoenix-based multimedia storyteller, photographer, and content creator. Her work has been featured in travel guides, national publications, and the social feeds of some stellar local restaurants. Follow her around Arizona, and beyond, on Instagram @hungryinphoenix.

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