Yoko Ono created An Invisible Flower when she was just 19, at the very start of her artistic career. Her book, tells the story of an invisible beauty and the one special person, “Smelty John,” who catches sight of it. Written years before Yoko met John Lennon, An Invisible Flower offers a glimpse into the early process of a brilliant conceptual artist and seems to eerily presage her own life to come. Her book was recently rediscovered in her archives by her son, Sean Lennon, who encouraged Ono to publish the work and even wrote the forward to An Invisible Flower. Here, Life+Times chats with the conceptual artist about what the book means to her, and her son, years later.
Life+Times: What did the idea of an invisible flower mean to you when you created the book? Does it mean something different to you now?
Yoko Ono: was always interested in the world which only exists as a concept to us, but it may exist outside of our senses—from a very early age. I am still working on stretching my senses to experience such a world.
L+T: What was the inspiration for the character of “Smelty John?”
YO: I just thought to add a comical element to the story by calling the guy “smelly.”
L+T: Do you feel there are some people who can sense things that no one else can?
YO: Of course.
L+T: Do you feel like you are still the same person you were when you created the book?
YO: I haven’t changed much, have I?
L+T: Did you learn something about who you were when you created An Invisible Flower that you didn’t understand at the time?
YO: I had no doubt that there was such a thing as an invisible anything. But at the time, I never connected “Smelty John” and John Lennon—of course, since at the time I had never met John Lennon.
L+T: How did Sean re-discover the book?
YO: He was going through a pile of my early writings.
L+T: Did he have to work hard to convince you to publish it? Or did you agree right away?
YO: Sean insisted. I thought it was touching that he thought “John” in the story was his dad. So I let him do what he wanted and publish it. But there is some strange connection with a drawing John Lennon did that same year, 1952. The thing that was in a fog seems to be “clearing,” if you can say that.
L+T: What do you want people to take from this book?
YO: Like any work of mine, they should take what they can take from this book.
L+T: What was this experience like as a mother/son project?
YO: Only way to describe the mystery of the particular role Sean played in this project of An Invisible Flower is to say that I have still not comprehended clearly. Nobody has. Maybe only my husband John knows. It’s obvious that Sean did not go into my closet, go through my old files and find An Invisible Flower. From there, already, something was very strange.
CREDITS: “YOKO ONO BLACK AND WHITE PROFILE IMAGE,” Yoko Ono Photo by Synaesthete © 2009
An Invisible Flower by Yoko Ono is available here.