So This is Christmas: The Artwork of John Lennon
Nov. 30-Dec. 2. Stamford Hilton Hotel, 1 First Stamford Place, Stamford. (203) 358-8898, foodbanklfc.org. Fri., noon-8 p.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Donations accepted.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono were husband and wife from 1969 until Lennon's death in 1980, and they were very much in love. They were artists, musicians, parents and activists together, making recordings, creating various forms of visual art and famously lying in bed for a week at a time at hotels in Amsterdam and Montreal to promote peace. It's the stuff of legends.
Listen to the Beatles song "The Ballad of John and Yoko" for a catchy summary of their early experiences together.
Now it's 2012, and John has been gone for 32 years. For many, the Beatles are considered the greatest band of all time, and Ono got a raw deal by being present in the group's final days. Did Ono break up the Beatles? No, of course she did not. Did Lennon's insistence on having Ono beside him at all times create additional stress among a group of bickering friends with differing artistic ambitions who had been in close quarters for too long under the world's spotlight? Well, yeah. But so what?
Ono has been the target of much misdirected anger over the years, and now at 79, she's still doing what she's always done: She creates art and music, she promotes peace and she does her best to preserve her late husband's legacy, all while being true to herself.
This weekend (and this weekend only), Yoko Ono and Legacy Fine Art & Productions are hosting an exhibit called So This is Christmas: The Artwork of John Lennon at the Stamford Hilton. It's a collection of Lennon's whimsical drawings, and it's been touring the U.S. for over 20 years now raising funds for worthy causes. Proceeds from this stop on the exhibit's tour will benefit the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County.
Ono called from her home in the Dakota apartment building on West 72nd St., the very same apartment she and John moved into in 1973, to discuss the show with the Weekly. She expressed her concern that even in a wealthy region like Fairfield County, people are still going hungry.
"Isn't that terrible?" she says. "It's so terrible. I was in the Second World War and I was a little girl and all the little girls and boys were sent to evacuate to the farm county, and the farmers really didn't like us. They said, 'Well city people, they had it good up to now, and now it's our turn.' Or something. And so, we were kind of left hungry, and I learned about being hungry at the time. And I just don't want kids to go through that now. They're going through that, but I'd like to save them from that, you know?"
Ono remembers the creation of many of the drawings on exhibit, which makes sense since the pair was inseparable for the majority of their time together. She also recalls experiencing Lennon's fertile creative process in the recording studio.
"When I worked with some other people, which I don't do very much, but when I observe other people working together or something like that, half the game is they're so insecure they can't make up their minds or something," she says. "That did not happen with John and Yoko. So we were very lucky. I'm a very impatient person and he was too, so if one of us were very slow or something we couldn't have lived together."
While activists today seem to lack the extreme passion that was present in the '60s, Ono is encouraged by the ways the consensus of the general population has evolved in the years since.
"The thing is, we are making some results in many ways," she says. "First of all, there are many, many people now who are really trying to do something to better the world. More than in the '60s. In the '60s we were having fun and having really great times, but there were not many activists. Now, I look around, and it seems like everyone is an activist now, don't you think? "
Yoko-bashing became such a deeply engrained activity among some Beatles fans that it persists to this day despite redeeming statements from Paul McCartney himself saying that the band's breakup wasn't her fault. Ono got more than she bargained for when she joined the by-then-hostile Beatles extended family, and a weaker personality may not have been able to handle it as gracefully as she has.
"I think it was a very restraining kind of environment," says Ono. "I didn't know that it was going to be that restraining, but it was and I got used to it. Maybe it was good for me to experience it because I was such a free soul, you know?"