Review – Reaching Out with No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono by Lisa Carver

Reaching Out with No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono / Lisa Carver / Backbeat Books / 2012 / 978-1617130946

Reaching Out with No Hands - Reconsidering Yoko OnoThe popular perceptions of Yoko Ono are often unflattering: hanger-on, untalented, unattractive, shrill, remote. Lisa Carver, herself an artist and musician, strips away perception to find the real Yoko. Carver considers the merits of Ono’s visual, written, and musical arts, explores what drives her, and the roots of the negativity that’s always surrounded her.

Though beginning with a long consideration of the public’s perception of Ono, subsequent chapters run anywhere from one sentence to about a dozen pages, with most somewhere in between. But this little book is packed full of insight.

Her work is often admired by other artists. But to many of us, she seems strange, as do her creations. Her words seem abstract, her music far-removed from the very accessible songs her husband created with the Beatles, her art remote and incomprehensible. But is it really?

Lisa Carver lifts this body of work into our field of vision, bringing Ono’s books, music, films, visual art and persona into focus, for consideration.

There’s a little about her relationships with – and distances from – family and other artists and artistic movements, but mostly as it relates to her work – you’re not going to find much gossip here.

What you will find is some well-thought-out discussion. What does her art say and what is behind it? Why is the public perception of her so often negative? Who is Yoko Ono, and is her work worth paying attention to?

(And why is it that she is so often blamed for “breaking up the Beatles,” while the impact of her partnership with John Lennon on her work is never considered?)

It isn’t all clear, to anyone – Carver admits that some of Ono’s work falls a little short for her. And she explains why that is. There’s no fawning. Just reaching for understanding, an understanding of the beauty, and the flaws, the driving ideals and the contradictions that make a person a person. That make Yoko, Yoko.

What becomes clear is that no matter how well-known she is, Yoko Ono has always been herself – an outsider, and a revolutionary. She blurs the lines between life and art, intimacy and distance. And her work is about you: how her audience views her work is the entire point.

Those looking for an insightful look at one of our best-known but least-understood artists, or interested in popular culture will likely find Reaching Out with No Hands to be a fascinating read.

Reaching Out with No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono is available here and at bookstores.

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