In 2016, acclaimed artist, musician, and peace activist Yoko Ono installed Sky Landing on Jackson Park’s Wooded Island. This gift to Chicago is her first permanent public artwork in the Americas. The sculpture was made possible, in part, by Project 120 Chicago.
Born in Japan in 1933, Yoko Ono moved with her family to California during her early childhood. They then briefly lived in New York City, but returned to Japan in 1941 shortly after the United States entered World War II. In 1945, she and her siblings were sent to the countryside to escape the bombings of Tokyo. In her 2013 book entitled Acorn, Ono describes the significance of the sky during that time of her life. She wrote:
“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 lightning. As I told myself then, I could never give up on life as long as the sky was there.”
Yoko Ono recalls that she first visited Chicago with her husband, John Lennon in the 1970s. They were especially impressed by Lake Michigan. She came to the Wooded Island for the first time in 2013.
Composed of a dozen 12-foot tall lotus flower petals, Yoko Ono’s sculpture is a symbol of peace. At the October 17, 2016 dedication ceremony she described the artwork as the “place where the sky and earth meet and create a seed to learn about the past and come together to create a future of peace and harmony, with nature and each other.”
Sky Landing stands on the site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition’s Japanese Pavilion. Known as the Ho-o-den or Phoenix Pavilion, the building and its displays introduced Americans to Japanese art and culture for the first time. The pavilion was left as a gift of the Japanese government. The Chicago Park District added a lovely Japanese Garden, called the Garden of the Phoenix, when the pavilion was restored as a WPA initiative. Although the pavilion was destroyed by arson in 1946, the garden remains today. Sky Landing’s message of peace is especially meaningful on this site.