Almost normal

After a long year, “Kusama: Cosmic Nature” finally arrives at the New York Botanical Garden.

It was a year ago that we wrote about an exhibit of Yayoi Kusama sculptures and installations – she of the polka dots, pumpkins and polka-dotted pumpkins  coming to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Talk about your advance stories.

“Kusama: Cosmic Nature” (Saturday, April 10 through Oct. 31) has finally arrived after a long delay thanks to Covid-19. Indeed, the garden wasn’t even open last spring. Instead, the season there unfolded virtually for would-be visitors.

The effects of the pandemic still linger, of course, at the garden, which reopened to the public last June. At the Wednesday, April 7, press preview, we were asked to sign waivers declaring our healthiness before we could even park. Hand sanitizing stations, masks, timed tickets and choreographed, socially distanced foot traffic were the orders of the day. And yet, it felt almost normal. Sitting in the Pine Tree Café, savoring lentil soup and a chicken sandwich while gazing at a white cherry blossom tree, we recalled springs past that are now on the other side of the Covid divide. And yet, the feeling of a kind of normality was the overwhelming takeaway from the day, overshadowing even Kusama’s delightful dancing resin sculptures of flowers, sunbursts and, of course, her beloved pumpkins. Indeed, we wished we could’ve taken the giant “Starry Pumpkin” – all shimmering mosaic pink polka dots on gold, holding pride of place inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory – home with us. Instead we have a photograph and a memory of people cavorting like daffodils and jonquils, straining for the sun beneath weeping cherry trees.

Come to think of it, remembering the miracle of such a day could make us weep a little, too.

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Georgette Gouveia

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