Yoko Ono was born in Tokyo in 1933. Ono’s international experience began early as she spent time as a child in San Francisco and New York before returning to Japan. She was educated at an elite private school in Tokyo. This education was interrupted by the war, but she returned to study there after the war concluded. She then went on to study at Sarah Lawrence College and moved to New York after graduating from there. After graduation, Ono moved to New York City and became a part of the downtown art scene there, mentored by none other than John Cage.
Avant-Garde Yoko Ono: Cut Piece (1964)
In New York, Ono made a name for herself by becoming involved in performance art, collaborating with and being inspired by members of the influential Fluxus Group. One of her most famous performance pieces from this time was called Cut Piece (1964). In this provocative performance piece Ono asked members of the audience to approach her and cut pieces of her clothing off slowly until she remained naked and exposed in front of the audience. This interactive performance piece exposed the uncertainties regarding the status and power of women at a time when women’s rights were being argued for more and more.
Yoko Ono with John Lennon, Love, Peace, and Bed-Ins
Yoko Ono met John Lennon in London in the 1960s as her career in the art world was blossoming. Lennon supported her artistic endeavors and the two eventually became a couple. As a couple, the two took the world by storm as Lennon’s fame in the Beatles skyrocketed Ono to international stardom. Here they are pictured in their famous peace bed-in to promote world peace.
Plastic Ono: Musical Career
Perhaps inspired by her proximity to the Beatles, Yoko Ono formed her own band and began performing music as part of the Plastic Onos. Over the next few decades she released numerous albums and performed all around the world as part of this eponymous musical group.
Yoko Ono and Her Son Sean Lennon
Yoko Ono fathered a son with John Lennon. Her son is called Sean Lennon. He has followed in his parents’ footsteps and gone on to become an acclaimed musician as well.
Wish Trees, Art and Humanitarian Work 1981 –
Yoko Ono has taken the popular tradition practiced by many Japanese of writing down wishes and attaching them to tree branches at local shrines and introduced it to the world. She has made art installations all over the world that invites audiences to do the same and calls them ‘Wish Trees.’
Re-Entry Into the Art World: Retrospectives
Today, Yoko Ono continues be a central figure in the art world. Beginning just a decade after she began her art career, restrospectives of her work have drawn audiences to learn more about this unique Japanese legend. Her first retropsective was in 1971 at the Everson Museum. More recently, the Whitney held one in 1989 and MOMA held one in 1998. In 2000, the Japan Society had a critically acclaimed retrospective of her work called ‘Yes Yoko Ono.’ Most recently, the Louisiana Museum in Denmark has hosted an exhibition chronicling her career in detail. Even as Yoko Ono continues to make new work in both the art and music fields, her career is being celebrated all over the world.