It’s difficult to think of an artist more unjustly maligned than Yoko Ono. Whether one appreciates her music or not – for the record, I very much do – it’s an inescapable fact that in popular culture, she’s often (at best) the punch line to a nasty/racist/misogynist joke or (at worst) blamed with “breaking up the Beatles” or some such nonsense. Happily, in the art world from which she comes, Ms. Ono receives at least some of the respect she so richly deserves.
Perhaps the most well-informed observer/admirer of Ono’s work (in art, prose, poetry and music) is author Madeline Bocaro. Her new book, In Your Mind: The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono seeks to place the artist’s work and life into a proper context. That context considers Ono’s early life in Japan (as the one-time object of affection of a royal figure), her largely unhappy childhood, her first two marriages and her work with the Fluxus art movement in New York City. It’s only after in-depth exploration of those topics that Bocaro even introduces the character of John Lennon.
And that’s as it should be. For too long (and by too many) Ono has been positioned and perceived as “Lennon’s wife,” diminishing her own creative forms of expression. Further, much of what she would do from the mid-sixties onward has been viewed from a perspective that considers her a kind of hanger-on accessory to her third husband’s life and career.
Yoko Ono deserves better, and with In Your Mind, Madeline Bocaro gives her that. An unabashed love letter to Yoko, the volume is also both a biography of sorts and a reference book, a key and introduction to Ono’s art. Taken alongside John Robertson’s 1991 The Art & Music of John Lennon (which of course has a very different emphasis but remains of value to those interested in Ono’s work from 1967 onward), it’s an essential resource for anyone interested in diving deeper into the infinite – and infinitely fascinating – universe of Yoko Ono.