Groundbreaking avant-garde artist and performer. World renowned peace activist. Trailblazing feminist. Pop culture icon. There is nothing conventional about Yoko Ono.
And there is nothing conventional about the book that celebrates the icon’s rich and often turbulent life and her innovative and idiosyncratic work as we celebrate her 80th birthday, “YOKO ONO: Collector of Skies”, by Nell Beram and Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky (Amulet Books, February 2013).
We know her now as the soft-spoken, intelligent, serious woman behind outsized dark glasses who has always allowed her art to communicate for her even when it seemed the world wanted her to go away. Always overshadowed by her famous coupling with John Lennon which both inspired and angered a generation, we have lost sight of the woman whose remarkable cutting-edge work deserves to be studied and appreciated for its own brilliance.
In her early career she didn’t fit in anywhere. She was an outsider, often misunderstood—a misfit in every medium—and feeling that she was on the cusp of something important artistically that no one else recognized. Always provocative, she explored experimental art and music outside the mainstream with a peer group of some of the most influential artists of the 20th century, including John Cage, Philip Glass, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol.
She helped viewers and fellow artists explore unknown areas of sound, thought, experience and creativity while challenging conformity and stuffy middle-class values. “Cut Piece”, “Bag Piece”, “Bottoms”, “Painting to be Stepped On”, “Fly Piece”, her book Grapefruit, and her poem-like “instruction pieces” were original and influential and meant to help readers tap into their own creativity, were, but became swallowed up later by her iconic status. When she met John.
They understood each other like no one had before, and henceforth, were inseparable. They anchored each other. Learned from each other. Fed off each other’s creativity. A beautiful marriage of love and art and relentless criticism. Life with one of the most famous men in the world was a strange, rare, invisible prison. The hateful stereotypes. The sexism. The racism. The hostility. She was the fringy artist leading the pop star astray. She was the home wrecker. She was cold. She was a warping influence. She was ultimately blamed for the Beatles’ breakup.
Their partnership was difficult for the two of them as his fans felt that she was ruining his work by making it too weird, and those who admired her art felt that he was ruining it by making it too mainstream. Both tumultuous and filled with love, their finest collaboration became their son, Sean. But too soon, John was taken by an assassin’s bullet.
Though tragic and heart-breaking, life did go on.
YOKO ONO: Collector of Skies also covers:
- Her childhood and early years in Japan
- The era when she hosted concerts and artistic events performed by and for the New York experimental-arts community: The 112 Chambers Street Series
- The details of the art movements that Yoko was a driving force behind: Conceptualism and Fluxus
- The inside story of the events surrounding the breakup of the Beatles.
- John and Yoko’s nude album cover for 1968’s Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins
- The Bed-In for Peace in the Amsterdam Hilton’s presidential suite
- The story behind the writing and recording of “Give Peace a Chance”
- The idea behind the 1970 releases of two “sibling” records: “John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band” and “Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band”
- Yoko and John’s arrest in Majorca in an attempt to take Yoko’s daughter Kyoko from her school during a messy custody battle
- The subsequent kidnap of Kyoko by her second husband in 1971
- The dark days surrounding John’s deportation order received in the 1970s
- How Nixon and the FBI kept tabs on the vocal, leftist couple in New York
- The album that ruined John’s career—Some Time in New York City
- Lennon’s ‘lost weekend’—a time when he was separated from Yoko for more than a year
- The critical success—surprisingly, for both of them—of 1980’s Double Fantasy
- What the days and weeks were like after John Lennon’s death
- Her reunion with her daughter Kyoko in 1994
- Rising , her album with son Sean that was released to rave reviews.
YOKO ONO: Collector of Skies is a master compilation that chronicles her life, art, and vision with lyrical prose, first-person anecdotes and stunning photographs throughout.
Yoko’s art becomes more appreciated and influential with every passing day with exhibitions in cities from London to Tokyo, Berlin to Budapest. Yoko’s music has experienced a second life with more critical acclaim. For so many decades, her fame made her almost impossible to see. So we invite you meet Yoko Ono again, but most likely, for the first time.
YOKO ONO: Collector of Skies.
About the Authors
Nell Beram is a former Atlantic Monthly staff editor, a former columnist forThe Horn Book Magazine, and an original member of the band Magnetic Fields. Her short stories, reviews, and essays have appeared in many publications, including The Threepenny Review, The Women’s Review of Books, and Z Magazine, and she is a frequent contributor to Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.
Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky, author of The Creativity Handbook, is a visual artist, arts writer, and playwright. Her writings include a feature article about Yoko Ono that appeared in Art New England and an interview with her that was published in Ruminator Review. Among Boriss-Krimsky’s plays produced in New York are Taxi Dreams, Movie Date, For Art, and Last Night. She lives in New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“YOKO ONO: Collector of Skies”
Authors: Nell Beram & Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Hardcover; 180 pages; Retail Price: $24.95
Publication Date: February 2013