HYDE PARK — On Monday, Yoko Ono unveiled her first permanent art installation in the United States, a sculpture that will live on Wooded Island in Jackson Park.
For more than a year, Ono has been working on “Skylanding,” a dozen lotus-shaped metal petals that have been installed between two large berms just outside of the island’s Japanese garden.
"Beauty is important to us," Ono said after a team of dancers pulled the wrappings off her work. "Beauty tells us what things are."
She said beauty gives people an incredible high and she wanted her new work to usher in an age of joy.
Bob Karr, president of Project 120, a nonprofit pushing for investment in Jackson Park, brought Ono to the park in 2013 to see if she wanted to tackle a space on the island left empty since the Phoenix Temple burned down in 1946.
"Her vision was for the sky to land here, cool it and thereby heal it," Karr said.
He praised Ono's as a good friend with a big heart whose work has often dealt with themes of the sky and peace, informed by her own experiences in Tokyo during World War II.
"This is a woman who at the young age of 10 woke up to 10,000 incinerator bombs being dropped on Tokyo," Karr said.
So it is perhaps fitting that her work is so close to where the Phoenix Temple was burned down by arsonists.
The temple was one of the most notable pieces of Japanese architecture in the United States when it was built in 1893 for the the World’s Columbian Exposition. After it was burned down, the few remaining pieces of its intricate woodwork were moved to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Ono will travel to the Art Institute on Tuesday to reveal a companion work to the Jackson Park sculpture.
“Mended Petal” will be the 13th petal of the “Skylanding” work and Ono will help to symbolically repair the petal in the Japanese tradition of kintsugi.
The event will finish a “ground healing” ceremony Ono started last year before starting on the “Skylanding” piece about bringing the past and the future together in the present to create harmony.
A limited-edition album of Chicago musicians led by Tatsu Aoki of the Miyumi Project jazz ensemble was also released on Monday to coincide with the unveiling of “Skylanding.”
The ensemble recorded seven of Ono’s songs, which will all be available for free online and with limited physical copies distributed through the “Skylanding” web site. Ono does not perform on the recordings.
Ono’s sculpture was unveiled just as Wooded Island prepares to reopen to the public on Oct. 22 after being closed for more than a year for a $8.1 million habitat restoration project by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Ono's new sculpture will be open to the public when Wooded Island reopens on Saturday.
Yoko Ono traveled to Chicago Monday from her home in New York City to unveil her first permanent installation in the United States.
Tatsu Aoki's Miyumi Project celebrated the unveiling with a performance of two Yoko Ono songs, which also appear on their free album coinciding with the sculpture.
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