It isn't exactly every day that Yoko Ono phones you up to talk about her traveling collection of John Lennon's artwork—not every day that someone so legendary in her own right has a kind and casual chat with you concerning the secondary talent of a Beatle.
The show features over 100 drawings, lithographs, sketches, and handwritten pages of lyrics created by the late Lennon. Ono has toured the collection for over 30 years, each time with proceeds benefiting a local organization that helps provide resources and shelter for those in need.
Below, Ono discusses her goals for the celebrated exhibit, her own status as a fashion icon, and what it's like to carry the Lennon legacy.
How did the exhibit get started?
John always wanted to show his artwork and he was looking for galleries. But he was so famous as a rocker, as a musician, and in those days people didn't understand how somebody could have two talents. Now it's not like that, you know, and when John passed away I thought that one thing I had to do was to fulfill his desire to show his art. I mean, many people never realized that John could do artwork and now they know that he is an artist as well. So I'm very pleased about that.
What is your ultimate goal with the show? Is there a message?
It's very interesting, because things happened that I never thought would. Many people come to the show, and they are all John Lennon fans anyway—well maybe, or maybe not, but they become fans—and they look at each other and say, "Hi, how are you?" and they start to be friends with each other. It's just a nice time to find friends in a place where they have the same ideas and the same love for this artist. So that's what has happened. I think that anything to do with goodness, anything to do with an activity that is good, should be going on.
The other thing is that I always make sure that when we do show we look into providing shelter for people who are in need, or whatever it is. The shows are for a benefit, which is good because John was always into that thing so I'm sure he'd be happy that we're doing it.
Were you involved in the decision to come to Seattle?
Yes. I was in Seattle actually about ten years ago and I was quite impressed. It's a beautiful, beautiful city.
Thank you. And we have a huge art scene here and a wonderful music scene, so it's a great place for the exhibit.
Especially the music scene.
I do want to ask you what it's like to be seen as a style icon in your own right.
I mean, I was living with an icon. I myself was just an artist, just doing my own thing. But when I see what John had to go through, well, it was pretty hard for him. You know, people always like to seek out icons and it's all "Please, can I shake your hand? Can I take a photo?" and it's just endless. So I feel so sorry for John in a way, but he managed very well actually.
And you, I mean, I think that people look to you for the way that you dress and the way that you carry yourself. Do you feel that way?
I don't feel that way at all. The reason why I try to do my best in choosing my own clothes, as well as the way that I choose what I do in life, is that part of me is thinking that I don't want to shame John's name.
All I can say is that I try my best, and I think all of us are trying our best.
Do you feel like you try and incorporate vintage pieces from your time with John when you get dressed? Do you have those nostalgic pieces in your wardrobe?
Not really. When we were in London it was really exciting...incredible clothes and all that. I wish I had kept them, but when we came to New York we decided that we just didn't have enough space to keep them and we wanted to buy new clothes that were sort of "New York" and all that. So unfortunately they passed away.
Are you traveling much with the collection?
I'm not. I think it's much better that it is John's show and people really appreciate John's work and John himself. And I don't want to overshadow that—not that I could.
How has the general reception to the exhibit been?
If it wasn't loved I don't think I could have kept it up this long. If I was just continuing it and it wasn't loved, people would think that I'm a crazy woman. People love it and that's why there's a natural, persistent rhythm with displaying it.
Visit the exhibit from October 31 through November 2 on the third level of the Bravern off of the 110th Avenue entrance. A suggested $3 donation will benfit Hopelink, a local nonprofit that provides resources for low-income and homeless families.