Perhaps you saw the piece in The New York Times about Las Vegas working hard to become a cultural hotspot for writers and artists.
And perhaps you know the Bellagio Las Vegas has been doing its part by mounting exhibits of world-class artwork. Some shows have been winners and some, well, have been less winning.
One recent exhibit (closed now) featured the stunning creations of Yayoi Kusama, a 90-year-old Japanese woman with orange hair and polka-dot clothes. Back in the 1970s she checked herself into a mental hospital and felt so much at home she’s lived there ever since.
But before writing her off as a kook, you should know she’s one of the most popular — and marketable — artists in the world today. And the Bellagio, in a bit of a coup, scored one of her 40 “Infinity Rooms” to display.
Most people who’ve attended a temple open house sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have noticed the two facing mirrors that reflect each other into eternity. Kusama has nudged that notion a step farther by creating entire rooms — floors, walls, ceilings, doors — made of mirrored surfaces and tiny, free-floating orange lanterns.
The effect is startling. But also, as with those temple mirrors, there’s a spiritual element at play. Anyone with religious leanings will find themselves moving from awe to reverence very quickly.
Of course, getting into one of Kusama’s infinity rooms is no easy task. It’s like getting a table at Studio 54 in New York City — on Labor Day weekend.
I had to make an online reservation with the Bellagio a week in advance. When I arrived, I found a long line of folks who’d been given the exact same time as me. We stood along the wall for a half hour while — one by one — we were led to a door by a very official-looking art matron holding a little clock. After some whispered words about photographs, epilepsy, liability and such, the matron let each of us enter the room. We we allowed 45 seconds in the infinity room to swallow the known universe.
I spent my 45 seconds craning my neck to see as far into infinity as I possibly could.
It was like standing on a planet at the center of the cosmos (think Kolob).
It was like being a demolitions expert for the Big Bang.
It was like swimming in matter unorganized, like being in a spiritual “fun house.”
Once back outside, I saw a ledger where I could write my impressions.1 comment on this story
I wrote: “I thought I was Adam, standing arm-in-arm with Jehovah on Day One of creation.”
I’m sure Yayoi Kusama will never get the reference.
Many reading this column may not.
But being there at the Bellagio basking in what one art critic called Kusama’s “soul stuff” showed me that St. Augustine got it right when he said, "The world is a God-soaked sponge.”
Even in glaring and shining Sin City, it’s possible to find a little niche filled with the kind of light that can illuminate the face of God.