CHICAGO (CBS) — Yoko Ono unveiled her first permanent public art installation in North America Monday morning in Chicago’s Jackson Park, just south of the Museum of Science and Industry.
Sky Landing, a sculpture composed of 12 large steel lotus petals, protrudes from the ground of the Garden of the Phoenix, which was once home to the Phoenix Pavilion, built by Japan for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
The original Phoenix Pavilion burned down in an act of vandalism in 1946, but the site has since been restored on the Wooded Island at Jackson Park, and now features more than 120 Japanese cherry blossoms, a Japanese-style gate and tea house, a moon bridge, lanterns, and several Japanese red maple trees.
Following musical and dance performances at the new Garden of the Phoenix on Monday, Yoko Ono told the crowd about her visit to Jackson Park three years ago, which inspired the creation of Sky Landing.
“I thought, ‘Wow, they have a lot to make us learn,’ and it was really great because you see when you have a photo of beauty, that’s enough,” she said.
Ono, now 83-years-old, accepted a helping hand as she walked to her seat, then made a request.
“Don’t concentrate on my leg. Concentrate on what I’m trying to tell you.” Focus on beauty, she said.
Ono said beauty is vital.
“You get an incredible high from it. That’s what we’re doing. We’re always having high, and that’s why we’re very active and healthy,” she said.
The artist and activist said Sky Landing symbolizes the sky and earth meeting, creating a future of peace and harmony.
The Japanese-American citizen said she also wanted the sculpture dedicated to the relationship between the U.S. and Japan. It was here, where Japan erected a pavilion for the 1893 Columbian Esposition.
“I just want to thank you for enriching our lives here today in the city,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at the unveiling.
Ono has another tie to Chicago: a visit she and her husband John Lennon made here in the 1970s. They were moved by Lake Michigan.
“She was inspired to write a song called ‘Walking on Thin Ice,’ and it was the last song that she and John recorded and it was the song he had under his arm when he died,” Robert Karr, of Project 120 said.
About 36 years after Lennon’s murder, Ono calls Sky Landing a landmark for peace.
“When I encountered Chicago in a really great way, I thought, ‘Wow, they have a lot to make us learn.'”
Ono plans to unveil a companion piece to at the Art Institute on Tuesday, and discuss with artists Monday night the role art plays in bringing people together and creating peace.