Give peace a chance

Yoko Ono on why John Lennon's art remains relevant
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  August 26, 2009

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"Come Together" by John Lennon

This year marks the 40th anniversary of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-In, which found the newlywed couple pontificating about peace from their Amsterdam honeymoon bed for a week. Decades later, and despite Lennon's untimely death in 1980, the couple is still working together to promote social justice, with Ono publicizing exhibits of Lennon's playful, sometimes colorful, often childlike, works of art.

Such an exhibit will be on display at the Dunaway Center in Ogunquit from August 28 to 30; the collection showcases more than 100 drawings and paintings, and proceeds will benefit Caring Unlimited, the anti-domestic violence organization in York County. We spoke to Ono, on the phone from New York, about why Lennon's visual art is as compelling as his musical legacy.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE LASTING MESSAGE OF JOHN'S ART? The fact that John at the time was into family, warmth, love, love between people, that sort of thing. And of course there's a little sense of humor there too. That's all John. And right now, the family system is breaking down, people are not very happy, all that, you know? And it's good to remind people that we can be human, you know? We like to have fun. Not fun-fun-fun, but . . . be nice to each other.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PIECE? I hand-chose all the stuff. They're all very beautiful. I love them all really.

WHAT DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WILL FIND SURPRISING ABOUT THE COLLECTION? They'll be surprised by the warmth and the sense of humor. Because most of the time when you go to a museum or something, most art is just being very serious. John's art totally surprises everyone in that sense. It's serious in a different way. In a 'Hey, we're together, aren't we?' kind of attitude. John's work — with his songs, as well — it's innately something a majority of people can be attracted to and understand. It's very hard to make good work that appeals to many people. Sometimes good work can be very elitist. But his work isn't. His work speaks to so many people, it's really great.

WHAT IS NEW, DIFFERENT, REMARKABLE ABOUT THIS EXHIBIT? We always have some new pieces in it. I always make sure that the local person will curate it; the reason that I do that is they have a take of the local situation much better than me. I like the fact that each time, we focus on the charity of that town or city. [In this case it's] Caring Unlimited, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and that's very, very important. There's an incredible backlash [against] feminism, the fact that women are standing up for their rights. We have to help each other focus on this sort of thing. That was John . . . he was always caring about other people, we were standing up for world peace, and a better society. Especially in John's case, I think he stood up for a different kind of relationship between men and women. Before John, I never saw a man in the park with a stroller. John started . . . this thing about the exchange of roles, and all that. I always want to make sure that I would somehow focus on a charitable organization of that city, especially about women and children.

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