A very, very happy birthday to the very, very wonderful Yoko Ono who turns 80 today!
I was introduced to Yoko Ono (I mean the concept of her; her work) when I was a little kid, probably 6 years old, and I found a copy of her book Grapefruit at a church rummage sale for like a quarter. I’m not trying to impress anyone with how smart or sophisticated I was when I was a small child, Grapefruit was something I stumbled across. All I knew about her then was that she had something to do (I didn’t know what, exactly) with the Beatles, who I was all into because I’d recently seen Yellow Submarine.
Grapefruit, a tiny book of the short, simplistic, whimsical and often hilarious artistic aphorisms Yoko is known for, is not exactly beyond the comprehension level of a precocious child. Here are some examples:
Carry a bag of peas.
Leave a pea wherever you go.
Steal all the clocks and watches
in the world.
Imagine the clouds dripping.
Dig a hole in your garden to
put them in.
It helps if you imagine Yoko’s voice reading it. For me it was love at first sight. I have always been in love with Grapefruit and with Yoko Ono. There has never been a time in my life when I wasn’t. I grabbed her albums from cut-out bins and garage sales throughout the 70s. Yoko was awesome and made music like no other!
I never got the whole “Yoko sucks” thing. It seemed so idiotic to me, then as now (I can see someone thinking that in 1975, but after post-punk showed just how ahead of her time she was? There’s no excuse anymore!).
Yoko Ono is a charter member of my pantheon of personal heroes. I even own a “Box of Smile,” her conceptual art piece that was mass produced in 1971 (It’s a small plastic box with a mirror inside. I have never—and I repeat NEVER—seen someone fail to crack a smile when they open it, not once).
When Yoko Ono announced on her Twitter feed in 2009 that she would answer some questions, she answered mine in the first batch. Keeping in mind what I wrote above, here’s what I asked and her reply:
Do you find that children “get” your conceptual art pieces better than adults?
Not necessarily. There are kids who think they are grown ups and don’t want to know anything that smells like kids stuff. And there are grown-ups who are still kids at heart who clearly get my work.
That made my day, I can assure you.
An excerpt from Yoko’s “Mind Train”:
Below, Yoko tells interviewer David Frost, in 1967: “My ultimate goal in film-making is to make a film which includes a smiling face snap of every single human being in the world.”