Yoko Ono talks about John, art and peace
By Ken Hoffman
March 20, 2015
John Lennon's art is much like his music. Serious and touching in moments, funny and outrageous at times.
Always a reflection of the beloved figure who started a little band in Liverpool called the Beatles and wound up rocking the world.
Some of Lennon's drawings belong on a child's bedroom wall or refrigerator door. Others are more suited for behind a beaded curtain. Many look like posters in '60s college dorm rooms.
Yoko Ono called last week to talk about "The Art of John Lennon" exhibition coming to Houston, the resurgence in her own career and, as always, peace and love.
"Forever Love" by John Lennon
"When John passed away, I thought that one of the things I better do is make sure that his artwork is known in the world," she said. "He would like that. I didn't know that it would bring so much happiness to people. It just keeps on going."
"The Art of John Lennon" keeps on coming, too. The world-traveling exhibition will make its eighth visit to Houston this week. About 125 lithographs of the former Beatle's pencil sketches, ink drawings and doodling will be on display and for sale at Off the Wall Gallery in the Galleria.
John and Yoko met when he visited an exhibition of her work at the Indica Gallery in London in 1966. They were married in 1969. Lennon was murdered outside their New York apartment building in 1980.
"Lennon" by John Lennon
"You know, John was an artist before he was a musician. He went to the Liverpool Art Institute. He was always very interested in art. When we met, I told him that he needed to do a show. He would say, 'I can't because I'm a Beatle.' He didn't think people would take his art seriously," Ono said.
"I think he would be very pleased by how much people enjoy and respect his art now."
Each limited-edition, numbered piece is adapted from Lennon's original drawing and hand-signed by Ono.
For Lennon fans, the exhibition is like looking through his diary - his career with the Beatles, meeting Yoko, their political activism, their marriage and his years as a house-husband, raising their son Sean.
"He Tried to Consult the Stars" by John Lennon
Yoko Ono turned 82 last month. Here's how she feels about that number and ageism. From an open letter titled "Don't Stop Me," she starts:
"At my age I should be in a certain way. Please don't stop me being the way I am. I don't want to be old and sick like many others of my age. Please don't create another old person."
Not many octogenarians had their 12th hit song - on Billboard's dance chart - last year. Ono's track "Angel" topped releases by Katy Perry and Jennifer Lopez.
"Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971" continues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibit features video of her avant-garde performances, conceptual art, audio recordings and films.
Nishi Saimara took this photograph of John Lennon in Japan in 1977.
Photo: ©Yoko Ono. All Rights Reserved.
Ono also is on Twitter. With nearly 5 million followers.
"At first, I thought Twitter was a way of giving, but I'm getting a lot from it, too. People ask me questions, and it's important that I answer. It's incredible. I'm enjoying every minute of it," she said.
Some of her tweets are what you'd expect:
"IMAGINE PEACE: Think PEACE, Act PEACE, Spread PEACE."
"We have to keep on going until the whole of the female race is freed."
"Start with something small."
"Do one nice thing a day."
"Call your mom and tell her you are thinking of her."
Often, her tweets could be from anybody. Who hasn't had this happen?
"Once we were on the elevator talking away, and forgot that we didn't push the button."
Fridays are "Ask Yoko Anything" day.
"Usually people will ask what John thought of something, or what he thought about a performer. Or they ask what he would think of something today. Those are questions that John should be answering, but he's not around, so I try my best," she said.
Sometimes she is Dear Abby on Twitter:
Hi Yoko! Any advice for bringing a boyfriend home?
"Don't do it unless you are sure that he would be liked and he, in return, would enjoy your family. "
Sometimes she is "American Pickers."
Do you like flea markets? I find them utterly inspiring!
"Yes I love the ones in London and in Paris, too. But there must be other cities in the world where they have great ones. Don't we like to know?"
Like most conversations with Ono, the subject gets around to peace. It's hard to watch the news, she knows.
"When I see the horrible, cruel things that people do, the violence, I get sad. I actually get sick and throw up physically. I don't feel hatred for those people, only sadness that people can do those things," she said.
Two weeks ago, she presented the Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts to Nabeel Abboud-Ashtar, a violinist with the Polyphony Conservatory in Nazareth. His mission is to present equal music opportunities to both Arab and Jewish children in Israel.
"I was in a room with 100 people, all who have shown courage to promote peace with their art. I realized that I have so much love for them and so much hope for peace in the world. They are doing incredible, courageous things. It filled me with love and hope.
"That was John's and my mission, too, to get people talking about the importance of peace. We should never stop working for peace."
'The Art of John Lennon'
When: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, noon-6 p.m. March 29
Where: Off the Wall Gallery, the Galleria
Admission: Free, but a $5 donation to the Houston Food Bank would be appreciated.
Extra: Lynne Clifford, the collection's curator, will be at the gallery Saturday and March 29 to tell the story behind each piece and answer questions.