Yoko discusses John’s erotic art, warming up to Paul, Ringo.

It’s not easy being Yoko Ono these days.  Each time I mention that Yoko is presenting an art show highlighting her past work, and the work of her husband, lots of folks chime in and yell that she is busy exploiting her and her husband’s past for the name of making a buck.  I don’t think Yoko really needs it,folks.  I really think she looks at it more like preserving her husband’s legacy and keeping his art alive.  I think, truly, that is her goal.  In that spirit, it looks like Lennon’s work will be showing again.  Check it out if you are in the Orange County area-code.

If any of you readers happen to make it out to the exhibit, drop us a line.  We’d love to hear your reports.

Here’s what we’ve read.

She has been blamed for breaking up the Beatles.

She’s also been regarded as an important contemporary artist – a key player in conceptual art, performance art and the Fluxus group.

Plus, she’s known as a champion of her late husband’s legacy, as well as a high-profile advocate for peace.

Yoko Ono is in rare company – only a few visual artists have been as celebrated and denigrated as she. The longtime New York resident agreed to a phone interview to talk about her late husband John Lennon’s artwork, which will be on view Friday through Sunday at Pacific Edge Gallery in Laguna Beach. More than 120 serigraphs (silkscreen prints), signed lithographs and song lyrics will be on display and sale.

“When I first started, it just was very difficult to get people to exhibit this stuff,” said Ono, 74. “People thought, ‘Oh, he’s just a famous pop star. How would he know about art?’ They didn’t know how great he was, how good his art was. Before the Beatles, he first went to art school in Liverpool. It was a very prestigious art school. He started with that.”

Lennon did attend three years at Liverpool Art College, but dropped out before his final year. He didn’t do well on his annual exams, and had a little thing called the Quarrymen – later the Beatles – to attend to.

Even after the enormous success of the Beatles, he never lost his interest in art. He continued to draw, doodle, write short stories and compose poems.

In fact, Lennon first met Ono at an art exhibition – hers. Their first interaction is well chronicled: In November 1966, Lennon bemusedly walked around an average-looking apple on a pedestal priced at 200 pounds, then he climbed up a ladder and looked through a spyglass pointed toward the ceiling. What he saw was the word “yes,” scrawled on a piece of paper.

“It’s so amazing,” said Ono, who was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1933. She permanently moved to the U.S. in 1952. “In hindsight, it seems almost like a planned thing. I just exhibited that work. But it seems like I was saying ‘yes’ to John.”

Lennon and Ono married in March 1969, and he continued to create simple, whimsical drawings, many of them portraits, throughout their marriage.

“They’re mostly family, I think,” said Ono, who had a son with Lennon, Sean, in 1975. “I really tried to put some things (in there) that are not very family, either. But they really were just family. That’s not particularly unusual for an artist to do. It’s a normal thing to do.”


Most of the originals were completed in the 1970s, according to Ono. The majority have been reproduced as lithographs, in editions of 200.

“He did not sign the reproductions,” Ono said. “They were signed after Johns’ passing. But he was always signing things. I told him to. I said, ‘You have to sign. Signing is part of being an artist. It makes people think seriously that it’s a work.’ He just didn’t think about it, I suppose. When he didn’t like something, he’d just crumple it and throw it in the wastebasket.”

A portfolio of 15 wedding and honeymoon drawings – some quite erotic – made in 1969 is known as the “Bag One” lithographs. They’re the only prints Lennon signed during his lifetime. They’re called “Bag One” because Lennon and Ono were proponents of “bagism,” a peace movement they founded that opposed prejudice and physical stereotyping.

The lithographs also appeared in a vinyl bag with the words, “Bag One,” printed on the outside. Bags two and three were intended but were never created, says curator Richard Horowitz. A complete set of the “Bag One” lithographs will be on display at Pacific Edge Gallery this weekend, and during the touring exhibition of this show.


Ono is still creating art herself these days, but she never exhibits it with Lennon’s work. “It’s better that John’s art stand by itself,” she said.

She also hesitates to talk much about her own artistic creations.

“If you can explain the work, then you don’t have to make the work. Yes, it’s sculptural. My whole idea is conceptual. The art speaks for itself.”

As Beatles and Lennon fans might recall, Ono has also been involved in making music for decades. Lennon sang about her in “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” “Oh Yoko!” and in a line from the song “Julia.” She contributed background vocals to “Birthday,” “Revolution 9,” “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” and other songs. And the couple collaborated and performed live for years after the Beatles’ breakup, mostly notably in the Plastic Ono Band.

Earlier this month, Ono’s remix of her 1981 song “No, No, No” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s “Hot Dance Club Play” chart. Not bad for a 74-year-old.

Ono also maintains her political activism. In October, she dedicated a peace memorial, the Imagine Peace Tower, in Iceland. She has given a cash peace grant every year since 2002.

She still believes in the power of printed media: This month, she purchased full-page ads in the New York Times and the largest Los Angeles newspaper that read simply, “Imagine Peace.”

“I think that it’s much better to do whatever we can do,” she said.

In this election year, Ono is not endorsing any specific political candidate. “Establishment politics is something else. You can’t really rely entirely on that. I’m not looking at the mainstream candidates. I operate more on the grassroots level.”

Over the years, much has been made about her differences with the surviving Beatles, particularly Paul McCartney. She opposed an effort by McCartney to have credits for certain Beatles songs changed from “Lennon/McCartney” to “McCartney/Lennon.”

But it appears that the two have made up. They have shown up at special events and have been photographed holding hands or hugging.

“They’re very sweet,” she said of McCartney and Ringo Starr. “Ringo came to the opening of the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland. Paul was supposed to come, but he had a court case, just that very day. There are times when we have our differences, times when we didn’t.

“It’s like a family. They always fight. Then they hug each other afterwards. It’s a human situation.”

As for the negative publicity she has received over the years, she takes it in stride. She views it as an exaggeration to attract people’s attention.

“The press did exaggerate a lot. It’s more fun to exaggerate, isn’t it?”

Wise words from a woman who’s seen her share of time in the public spotlight.

Source: OC Register


2 Responses

  1. FYI

    Cut & Paste these links:



    Gary Arseneau
    artist, creator of original lithographs, scholar & author
    gwarseneau@hotmail.com (email)
    garyarseneau.blogspot.com (blog)
    garyarseneau.com (website)

  2. i love erotic art. i own many in my apt.

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