yoko ono about her art

Image: Connor Monahan 2018

Stanford News Service in January 2009

Q: ”What would you say to critics who say these works are too – ”

Yoko Ono: ”I know. People say it is too simplistic, or whatever. Some people say, ”Oh well, maybe when you get older you want to do something simple.” I thought that was ageist. My work was always minimal. Minimalism—I believed in that. It was always very simple. I think it is as simple as breathing. Breathing is very important. I don’t feel that that’s bad. I was very surprised myself that the wish tree has become so important in people’s lives. I’m very honored that I was used for that, instead of some very complex, highfalutin work. Sometimes something simple gives more to people.”

Yoko Ono to Michael Bracewell / The Guardian, 1996

”I was brought up to think Van Gogh was great; all the artists I admire, like Kafka, were fringe artists in their lifetime. I always thought that if you’re a true artist you’re only going to be appreciated after you go. They were all persecuted in one way or another. So my challenge is a bit strange. That was another thing in the early Sixties: I’d be doing a gallery show of my paintings and they’d say, ”Oh, she’s a composer – they’re the dabblings of a composer”, and then if I did a music concert they’d say, Oh, she’s just an artist’. So that’s another challenge. I just have to be myself, and being myself is creating in different media without censoring myself. I’m a Jack of all trades… Which is not a good label, and I know it’s not supposed to be effective professionally, but that’s okay.”

”When I make music or artworks I’m not really in control, because I’m just passing on messages in my mind. And sometimes I get frightened because I think, `What did I say?”

Yoko Ono for Now Toronto, 2002

”Artists are all world citizens and each of us is responsible for speaking out.”

From an interview with Yoko Ono for TONY, 2001

”People ask, ’Why are you doing this thing or that — why graphic art, why why why?,’ ” Ono says. ”At different points in my career I’ve done things with my hands… and things that are so conceptual. But there’s a line going through it all. It’s a very organic feeling. We’re not doing our work —we, artists — to become a statue.”

Yoko Ono Serpentine Gallery

My work was always minimal. Minimalism—I believed in that.

Yoko Ono to Mary Abbe of Star Tribune, 2001

”Some people would consider me to be an optimist and think that is synonymous with being naïve,” Yoko Ono said recently. ”But it certainly is not derived from naïvety. It is my pessimism that drives me to be optimistic. To survive we can’t just be negative about things. I am trying to create, well, an image of something that is positive so we can just hold onto it.”

Yoko Ono in Sculpture Magazine, 2000

”I often remember this sort of story from my childhood: Buddha actually came from a rich family he was a prince or something like that and one day he just dropped everything and started walking with his wife and his children. Soon, someone comes out and says, Give me something. And Buddha gives him his jacket or shirt. Then he goes on, and somebody else asks him for something; he gives them his family, and so on. And finally, I think it’s a tiger that asks him for his body. So, he just gives his body and is transformed into a spirit. It’s the total giving concept. The struggle with art, for me, became about the concept of whether you were stating your ego through your work or creating an environment where other people can be creative as well.”