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After all the years of being half of a famous couple, and somehow reviled for that, she’s finally made it back to being an artist. I had to work hard to un-curse myself,” she says, matter-of-factly. I was a proud person thinking my work was any good anyway.
Before the Smile photographs there was an exhibition in India of women’s bodies, human sculptures. It seems unusual to be starting again so late in life, but not to her. “When I was in elementary school in Japan they had a textbook with a picture of a Japanese warrior who asked to be given seven sufferings and eight disasters, because he wanted to take over everybody’s suffering and disasters. We come back to the Smile exhibition: “Don’t you think it’s better to smile than to scowl? “Yes, I’m angry every day but I don’t hold on to it because it will make you physically sick. You don’t blame anybody.” She says she didn’t blame Lennon for eclipsing her career. When I got pregnant I had to concentrate on being pregnant for a whole nine months, even though I knew it was ruining my career at the time.” When she was pregnant with Sean she had bed rest for most of the pregnancy because she didn’t want to have another miscarriage. Since her art has always been a way to cauterise her emotions, it was a frustrating time. And that was upsetting.” Lennon’s affair with Pang – his “lost weekend”, as he would eventually call it – began in 1973 and ended 18 months later. Can you imagine every day of getting this vibration from people of hate? Also, we were so close John didn’t even want me to go to the bathroom by myself. And this would be in public places like the EMI recording studios. I was prepared to lose him, but it was better he came back.
There was a sort of underground clique in London; John Dunbar, who was married to Marianne Faithfull, had an art gallery in London called Indica, and I'd been going around to galleries a bit on me off days in between records, also to a few exhibitions in different galleries that showed sort of unknown artists or underground artists.
I got the word that this amazing woman was putting on a show the next week, something about people in bags, in black bags, and it was going to be a bit of a happening and all that. I went in - she didn't know who I was or anything - and I was wandering around.
There was a fresh apple on a stand - this was before Apple - and it was two hundred quid to watch the apple decompose.
There were a couple of artsy-type students who had been helping, lying around there in the gallery, and I was looking at it and was astounded.
There was an apple on sale there for two hundred quid; I thought it was fantastic - I got the humor in her work immediately.
I asked for the seven sufferings and my life became terribly difficult. And when it got to around 1979 I thought, ‘what did I do wrong? Ono became pregnant with Sean just after she and Lennon had got back together after his affair with their assistant May Pang. I thought they’d be OK.” Didn’t she miss him when she was in New York and he was on the other side of the country? It’s a long time since she’s been involved with anyone at all. I cherish moments of not having a guy around, but my work involves being with people, usually guys. I’ve got so many things going on all the time.” Ono has always been a rebel and fiercely independent, so it seems strange that she became so inextricably linked with Lennon.
“I was very aware that we were ruining each other’s careers and I was hated and John was hated because of me. She grew up in a conservative aristocratic family in Tokyo.
The exhibition was held at the Indica Gallery, in the basement of the Indica Bookshop in Mason's Yard, just off Duke Street in Mayfair, London.