HEATHER LENZ discusses YAYOI KUSAMA and other adventures in filmmaking!

IMG_1444Art Historian and filmmaker HEATHER LENZ presented a lecture entitled “Kusama:  Connecting the Dots” on November 28th to a packed house.  Art and film enthusiasts and many students from local universities attended, well aware that Lenz’s film “Kusama:  Infinity,” about world renown modern artist, Yayoi Kusama, had premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year to great acclaim.  Screenings began in select theaters in September 2018.

It was a long road getting to that point for Ms. Lenz.  She began working on the film seventeen years ago, when Kusama was an unrecognized name in the art world.

As a fine arts student at Kent State University, Ms. Lenz was introduced to Kusama’s work by one of her sculpture professors.  She was immediately drawn to it.  Later, after receiving an MFA in Cinematic Arts from the University of Southern California, Lenz’s thoughts turned to filmmaking.  The combination of film and Kusama was yet to come.

Lenz’s first short documentary, “Back to Back,” about a bicycle inventor, was nominated for a Student Academy Award and screened in film festivals worldwide.

Her first film, “Intertwined Lives,” was the story of identical twins.

She worked as a researcher for the History Chanel, the Food Network and PBS.

She never forgot Kusama, a complex, creative personality, and a perfect fit for Lenz’s desire to combine art and filmmaking, two things Lenz now knew well.  Except that’s where the perfect fit ended.  Kusama spoke no English, lived half way around the world, and most problematic of all, was an unknown name to investors in the film making world.

Fortunately for us, Ms. Lenz persevered and began a documentary on Kusama which took seventeen years to make.

Early in her work with Kusama, and well before Kusama’s meteoric rise to fame, Lenz travelled to Japan to meet her.  After spending a rousing few hours visiting with Kusama, young Heather said her thank you’s and goodbye’s and exclaimed, “This was the happiest day of my life!”

To which Kusama, then in her seventies, replied, “Mine, too.”

And happily for us, quite unexpectedly Ms. Lenz gave permission for the Norfolk Society of Arts to premiere her documentary film, “Kusama:  Infinity” on the evening after her lecture at Norfolk’s own Naro Expanded Cinema.

It was fully attended and enjoyed to rave reviews!

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Our thanks go out to Heather Lenz, and also to the Naro Expanded Cinema for a wonderful Kusama-filled event!