SKYLANDING by Yoko OnoIN THE GARDEN OF THE PHOENIX | WOODED ISLAND | JACKSON PARK
The City of Chicago is proud to announce the construction of SKYLANDING in the Garden of the Phoenix in Jackson Park, which will be the first permanent work of art by Yoko Ono in the Americas, and a marker of her place as an artist of profound international influence and of her lifelong mission for world peace.
In Japanese, Yoko is written as “ocean child.” This certainly rings true for the life of artist Yoko Ono, who was born in Japan in 1933 and moved to the west coast of the United States at the age of two, and back to Japan shortly before the outbreak of war in 1941. Ono’s transcontinental moves as a toddler would be just the first of a many between east and west, in a life traversing oceans: literal, familial, and artistic. She is a true global citizen whose work and life celebrate commonalities that make all of us one. Ono has spent more than five decades breaking down barriers in the visual and performance arts, as well as in music, film and the written word.
Upon her first visit to the footprint of the original Phoenix Pavilion on the Wooded Island in 2013, Ono felt the powerful sense of place and digested the history of the pavilion’s creation as well as the story of its demise. She recalled,
I want the sky to land here, to cool it, and make it well again.1
This is the inspiration for SKYLANDING, which will be open to the public in August 2016. It will be Yoko Ono's first permanent public art work in the Americas, and a marker of her place as an artist of profound international influence and of her lifelong mission for world peace.
Perhaps it is because of her years spent traveling the globe that Ono feels so connected to the elements. The sky has held a powerful significance for the artist since her youth when she and her younger siblings were sent to the countryside in the spring of 1945 to escape the bombings of Tokyo. Ono and her brother, Keisuke, both frail from lack of food, would lie on their backs and imagine menus in the sky that might nourish them back to strength. She wrote in her preface to Sky Piece I in her 2013 publication Acorn:
Towards the end of the Second World War, I looked like a little ghost because of the food shortage. I was hungry. It was getting easier to just lie down and watch the sky. That’s when I fell in love with the sky, I think.
Since then, all my life, I have been in love with the sky. Even when everything was falling apart around me, the sky was always there for me.
It was the only constant factor in my life, which kept changing with the speed of light and lightening. As I told myself then, I could never give up on life as long as the sky was there.2
Above Image: Site of SKYLANDING on the Wooded Island, Jackson ParkSKYLANDING brings this child’s sense of hopefulness to the public realm and the intention is that visitors will feel a communal connection to earth and sky when experiencing the work. Ono has said, think of the sky as 90 percent of me. The other 10 percent is my foothold to this planet.3 Further her hope is “to introduce the sky to people…like introducing a medicinal food..."4
Have sky in your life to protect you. Without it, you will just be a part of the earth.5
SKYLANDING will become a place of congregation and contemplation and will be installed in harmony within the existing surrounding gardens and habitats of Jackson Park.
Yoko Ono has a very special connection to the City of Chicago. She recently said, “whenever I think of Lake Michigan, my heart starts to beat fast, as if I’ve met my old love!”6 When she first visited in the 1970’s, she stayed at a hotel overlooking Lake Michigan. When she remarked on the view, Ono was told that the lake was as big as an ocean. Later, back home in New York, she began to compose her hit song, “Walking on Thin Ice.” It was during a recording session that a vision of Lake Michigan appeared in front of her and she was inspired to write,
I knew a girl who tried to walk across the lake,
'Course it was winter when all this was ice.
That's a hell of a thing to do, you know.
They say the lake is as big as the ocean.
I wonder if she knew about it? 7
Yoko has said, “Chicago makes me nostalgic about way, way back when I was a little girl in the 1930's. I don't really know why. But there seems to be a strong connection between me and Chicago. One day they can analyze my life and tell me - that's the connection. Or, it may never be understood. That's okay. There are many things I don't understand about me, anyway.”8
For Jackson Park, this “ocean child’s” contribution represents the continued legacy of eastern and western unity and ensures that the site of the Phoenix Pavilion remains that of a cultural hub of enlightenment and discovery.
To experience Yoko Ono's vision for peace, please visit SKYLANDING.com.
, , , , ,  Yoko Ono in Conversation with Nora Halpern, May and June, 2014
 Yoko Ono, Acorn, O/R Books, New York and London, 2013, unpaginated
 Walking on Thin Ice, 1981 music and lyrics by Yoko Ono
- The Garden of the Phoenix: The 120th Anniversary of the Japanese Garden in Chicago (鳳凰の庭園：シカゴ日本庭園120周年記念) by Robert Karr Jr., North American Japanese Garden Journal, 2013
Above Image: Location of Project 2: SKYLANDING by Yoko Ono within the Garden of the Phoenix on the 15-acre Wooded Island in Jackson Park, Chicago.