By Fabiola Santiago, The Miami Herald
Jan. 10, 2010
Imagine a world in which John Lennon spent his days not making music
but lounging at home with his young son, Sean, and wife, Yoko Ono,
and filling sketch pads with whimsical images.
Sean: "I want a little monkey."
John: "Let's see about that. . . ."
A few pencil strokes later, the famous father presents his work for review.
"Oh dear, is that a monkey now?" he asks his son.
"It's an elephant!"
That drawing of the monkey-turned-elephant, Yoko Ono says from her
home in Manhattan, is her favorite in a collection of some 100 works
that span Lennon's life and will be on view from Friday through Jan.
17 at Miami Beach Community Church. The three-day exhibit -- We All
Shine On: The Artwork of John Lennon -- is presented by Ono as a
fundraiser for Adopt-A-Classroom, a nationwide program based in Miami
that provides financial and moral support to underprivileged students
"He was very precise and had a very good idea of what he wanted to
draw, but either way, it was a kind of sense of humor he had, and a
relaxed attitude he had about doing it," Ono says.
Lucky for the world, Lennon made great music and brought his
dream-like sensibility to his work as a visual artist.
Not many people know this, but before Lennon was a Beatle, he
attended the Liverpool Art School for three years.
"He was very proud of that," Ono says. "Then he met people, and he
created a kind of little band called the Beatles."
Throughout his life -- he died at 40 -- Lennon produced hundreds of
caricatures, illustrations and free-hand drawings that chronicled the
world around him, his thoughts and ideas about love and peace. He
also humorously depicted some of his songs, including Imagine.
"For somebody so famous and so busy, and still he kept drawing
things," Ono says.
From 1975 until his murder in 1980 in the entrance to The Dakota,
the historic apartment building on Central Park where Ono still
lives, Lennon spent a lot of time at home.
"He was a house husband," says Rudy Siegel of Legacy Productions,
which stages the Lennon exhibits. "A lot of the collection comes from
his hanging out at home. . . . He drew wherever his head was at --
his relationship with his wife, his love for his son. He was getting
ready to turn 40 and see the end of '70s."
The drawings in the exhibition, which has been touring the United
States for 17 years, depict the wit and irony with which Lennon
viewed the world. In Imagine All the People Living Life in Peace, he
paints a man (himself) mounted upon the Earth, bent over in order to
peer at the parts he can't see.
Included in the show is the series Real Love: The Drawings for Sean
and lithographs signed by Lennon in 1970 and limited-edition prints
of his drawings signed by Ono. Some pieces are for sale to benefit
"Whenever I look at the collection, I see that there's a lot of
similarity with how he wrote out his songs and how he made his
drawings," Siegel says. "Some are very quick and look like a doctor's
prescription. Some, he took his time to make. He had a thought in his
head, and he needed to get it down on paper. He was able to use a
very few amount of strokes or lines, whether it be song writing or art work."
Almost 30 years after Lennon's death, Ono is moved when she speaks of
him -- and is proud of the breadth of his work, including his art and
activism on behalf of world peace.
"He started in Liverpool and then kind of conquered the world with
his music," she says. "Forty is very short."
As to their life together: "We went through a very, very hard time,
and the kind of life we had was a roller coaster. By the way, I hate
roller coasters, and my blood was drained. . . . I don't need that. .
. . There was so much commotion outside and a storm of jealousy."
People ask her all the time what it was like for two artists to live together.
"They ask that question quite often [as if we were] fighting all the
time or about to kill each other," says Ono, 76, whose work has been
exhibited from time to time in South Florida. "Nothing like that
happened. John is an interesting, tough person. If we went through
that, he thought it was a waste of time, waste of life. We got each
other, thank God. He was always wanting to give water to the plants
every day. We watered the plant of love. He always made sure to say
he loved me every day."
Then she adds: "Now I see in hindsight that I was a very lucky person."
What would John think of the times now?
"Well, I think, first of all, he would have been very angry that we
keep saying 'Love and peace' and 'Peace and love,' and still [the
world is] less peaceful, but he would get over that, and try again."