John Lennon and Yoko Ono
4:00 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Imagine Peace: Virginia Exhibits

Many people remember Yoko Ono for her connection to the Beatles.  But a Virginia Tech Professor says she’s always been a major contemporary artist in her own right, whose groundbreaking work is still relevant today. 

Two Exhibitions on Ono’s long career open next week at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke and the Armory Gallery at Virginia Tech. 

Listen to the report from Robbie Harris.

It was 1969 when Yoko Ono and John Lennon used the megaphone of their fame to call attention to their convictions. And while John Lennon was to so many, the voice of his generation, Kevin Concannon, Director of the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech says Yoko Ono was ahead of her time.

“Lots of contemporary artists honor her as a real foremother of what they do, ranging from rather obscure avant garde contemporary artists to Lady Gaga for example, looks to Yoko as a hero and there are amazing number of people who do so," he said.

Concannon has spent decades studying Yoko Ono.   He says the characterization of her, as the person who broke up the Beatles was never accurate. Now he has curated a new exhibition, opening at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke. The show explores her work well beyond her collaboration with her husband.  But it also offers insights into how it happened that Yoko Ono and John Lennon, emerging from very different worlds, came together. There are numerous stories of their early meetings, but Concannon,    is going with this one.

“John shows up at his friend, John Dunbar’s gallery where Yoko is about to have a show and there’s a ladder in the center of the gallery and John climbs the ladder, there’s a magnifying glass, he picks it up, there’s a tiny word written on the ceiling it says yes.  And, John has on more than one occasion before he passed away, indicated that positive affirmation – if it had said something negative it never would have happened.. that that is really what hit him.”

 “Of course John and I never thought that it would be like that, that people are going to be doing peace shows.  And I like the idea that someone like Kevin who is very intelligent and sensitive is doing his own kind of thing.  We did plant the seed, our seed was stolen but other seeds came alive. And Kevin’s thing is that.  He’s doing it and a lot of people are getting the message from that," explained Yoko Ono, in a telephone interview.

Ono says she remains positive about her long held hopes for world peace.  This despite the loss of her husband, John Lennon, at the hands of a crazed fan, who shot and killed him outside their apartment building in 1980.

“She’s had more than her share of adversity but she’s still out there at 80 years old with this message of peace.”

Concannon’s has curated two exhibitions opening September 14th. Imagine Peace at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke.   Another show at the Armory Gallery on the campus of Virginia Tech will include other works on that theme and more, by Yoko Ono.     

Yoko Ono's "My Mommy is Beautiful" exhibit