Strokes of Genius

ae lennonYoko Ono brings John Lennon’s art to Santa Cruz

Thirty-four years after John Lennon’s death, pieces of his legacy are coming to Santa Cruz. “Come Together,” a show of the singer’s lyrics and art, will be at a currently vacant storefront on Pacific Avenue Friday, Aug. 15 through Sunday, Aug. 17. Donations made at the door and profits from works sold will go directly to Second Harvest Food Bank.

Lennon’s work—most of it reproductions of his sketches—will be on display in the form of lithographs, serigraphs, and copper etchings. Some of the art has been touched with color by Yoko Ono; the 81-year-old artist and activist took a few minutes to talk to GT about her late husband’s art and music.

GT: Did John ever talk about his early days at Liverpool College of Art?

YOKO ONO: After high school, naturally, many people went to a university. The teachers were saying to John that he couldn’t make it, because he was so wild. The art teacher was saying, “You’re very good in art, so maybe you’ll try art school.” Sure enough, he got into Liverpool arts school, and he was very proud. And after he got into Liverpool arts school, he got interested in rock ’n’ roll. So, he went for rock ’n’ roll, and created a little modest band that conquered the world. 

Author Paul Auster was once working in an office, and John came by. The two saw a striped orange and black Robert Motherwell painting, and Auster wrote that John made fun of it. Did he think modern art could be silly?

He was all sense of humor about the art world. That’s what he did. I thought it was very original and interesting at the time.

Do you realize your last name has appeared in thousands of crossword puzzles?

It’s such a convenient name. You can’t do something really intelligent in a crossword puzzle: “OK well, let’s just do Ono again.”

How’s the Plastic Ono Band doing?

I like that we brought back the Plastic Ono band. That was Sean [Lennon]’s idea. He said, “Could we bring back the Plastic Ono Band?” I said, “Why do we have to do that?” But then I said, “Oh, well.” I went for it. It’s working very well.

Before meeting John, you married twice. Since his passing, have you ever considered remarrying, or at least moving out of the house you shared together?

Why? The point is we fell in love, and when you’re in love, you get very romantic about it, and you just want to stay forever together.

With the situation in Afghanistan and Gaza, what do you think when you see war in the headlines?

It’s very sad. It’s ideal that someday—I’m sure it will happen—we’re all going to get together like brothers and sisters and start caring about each other. It’s just terrible, violence and war. We just don’t need it. If we could just make a deal to please each other, it would create a conversation. Also, the thing is every country is getting poorer and poorer. Pretty soon they won’t have the money to keep a huge military.

Would John find it funny that prints of his ink scribbles are so popular and worth good money?

He was an incredibly intelligent man, so of course he wasn’t just respectful of art in general—“So, what’s art anyway?” kind of thing. But when he did it, it was really good.

‘Come Together: The Artwork of John Lennon’ will be at 1346 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 2-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15; 11-7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16; and 11-6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17.

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