Yoko Ono Talks to Letters
|by Fay Jacobs
|In honor of his 64th year, Yoko Ono and The Rehoboth Beach/Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce will present an exhibit of artwork by John Lennon titled "When I'm Sixty-Four." This exhibit will feature original drawings and limited edition prints. John's powerful message of love and life is portrayed in the works on display. This ever-changing exhibit has been one of the highest attended art showings in America for the past ten years and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities throughout the world. There will be over 100 pieces of art created by John Lennon, from 1968-1980.
The show will be at the Convention Center July 15-17. Letters Feature Editor Fay Jacobs had the opportunity to speak, by phone, with Yoko Ono about the exhibit and John Lennon's art career.
FJ: Hello. I'm delighted to be speaking with you.
YO: Hello to Delaware!
FJ: Many of us know John Lennon as a musicianI count myself of the Sgt. Pepper generation and a big fan. But I just learned that his art career pre-dated his music. We don't know a lot about John's art careerdid it come naturally for him?
YO: Oh yes. He was an artist first. His high school teacher felt he should go to art school, but he was beginning to be interested in music and wanted that careerit turned out very successfully you know (she laughs), but as a teenager, before he ever picked up a guitar, he was drawing. So he did go to art school.
FJ: But his art career didn't flourish until after his passingwith you as the driving force behind these exhibitions. How did this huge second career happen?
YO: In his lifetime it didn't happen. He just didn't get the recognition. People didn't want to see his art, he was just too famous as a Beatle. As an artist myself I was totally impressed with his drawingseven before we got together I had seen his work. I was in a bookshop and I opened a book and it gave me chills. When we started to live together and I wanted him to display his art, he'd say, "I'm a Beatle, I can't do that, people aren't interested." Actually, he did a show and it was not too successful.
But right after his passing I said I have to do something about the artit didn't happen right away, it built slowly, starting in New York. Then the Museum of Modern Art took his Bag One collection and that helped.
FJ: The pen and ink drawings are simple, yet often profound. How often did he work on his artwere there special times he was moved to draw?
YO: All the time. He either had a pen in his hand or his guitar. They were his security blankets. It was constant.
FJ: The early drawings in the Real Love series were childlikewere they done by John for your son Sean?
YO: That was how they had conversations. You know John's art could be cynical with black humor, but for Sean he was having fun. They would have a running dialogue and John would draw and ask Sean, "What's this?" and Sean would say, "Piggy" and then a drawing would come of it. They would sit together at the kitchen tableI'd be making tea and they would sit and work on the drawings together. He did them for Sean.
FJ: You are a celebrated artist yourself, and now you seem to be merging your career with John's artwork. Can you tell us about the drawings that you have been hand coloring?
YO: At first the people who were creating the exhibits were afraid of just black and white pictures. They said they couldn't put them in the windows of the gallery and asked me to color them. At first I thought it was sacrilegious, you know, but then I thought if I colored some I could be a part of John's artwork.
FJ: A collaborator?
YO: No, just a helping hand.
FJ: Well we're delighted that the exhibit will be in Rehoboth Beach this weekend (July 15-17) at our convention center. Rehoboth is noted for its diversity and we have a very large gay and lesbian population here. One of John's early verses of poetry was titled "Why" and it concerned a plea for acceptance of gay relationships. Did John actively support gay rights?
YO: Oh yes. He felt it was terrible for anyone to be getting unfair treatment because of sexual orientation. He always spoke up.
FJ: It's obvious that you are still supportive, with your major gift to the Gay Men's Health Crisis in NY (editor's note: Yoko Ono donated $1 million dollars to the organization).
YO: Yes, I am very concerned. I wrote a song. "Every Man Has a Woman," and now I have written and recorded it differently, with "Every Man has a Man" and "Every Woman has a Woman." I will send you the CD, I want you to have it.
FJ: I can't wait to hear it. So does this mean you are in favor of gay marriage?
YO: Yes, I am for it. And it is just a matter of time. It's really economics. If everyone goes to Canada to get married, the states will not like losing out on the money! It's so obvious, isn't it, it will be about economics.
FJ: Do you have any other comments about the state of politics here in America.
YO: That's a trick question! You know I believe in peace. You know how the songs go. It's obvious what I think! (laughs)
FJ: Back to art, then! So here you are keeping John's musical heritage alive and giving hiims a hugely successful posthumous art career, too. How do you feel about the success of the art?
YO: I am pleased and I hope John is pleased. I believe that one day our spirits will meet up and I'd ask him 'How'd I do?' I hope he is okay with it.
FJ: What's next for you, anything surprising?
YO: Every day is a surprise! Every day is interesting. I'm enjoying life now more than ever.
FJ: Wonderful! And I look forward to seeing When I'm Sixty-Four. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with Letters.
YO: You are welcome. And I promise to send you the CD.
Author's note: The very next day, I received the CD, and it's very cool!
"When I'm Sixty Four," The Artwork of John Lennon, will be on display at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center, Friday, July 15 from noon-9 p.m, Saturday, July 16 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday, July 17 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Suggested $2 donation to help benefit the Destination Station Center.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 9 July 15, 2005