Emphasizing the Positive

Ceiling Painting (Yes Painting), Yoko Ono, 1966


Yoko Ono‘s activities as an artist span a truly broad variety of genres: art, music, film, and performance. Her work over the past four decades has taken her around the world, in which process she has come to influence a great number of people, starting with John Lennon.

Back in November 1966, she exhibited her Ceiling Painting (or the YES Painting) at the Indica Gallery of London. Viewers had to climb up a white ladder in the center of the room, from where a magnifying glass hanging from the ceiling allowed them to view the word “YES” written in tiny letters on a framed piece of paper affixed to the ceiling. In fact, the work brought Ono and John Lennon together for the first time – some say that she used the work to seduce the already-married Lennon. There is a famous episode in which Lennon, having climbed up the ladder and read what was written, said, “I would have been quite disappointed if it had said ‘NO,’ but was saved by the fact it said ‘YES’,” The two married in 1969.



The “YES” in the title of the exhibition symbolizes the way that Yoko Ono emphasizes the positive in her works and activities. The following quote illustrates that attitude: “‘YES’ was my work and John encountered it and he went up the stairs and he looked at this word that said ‘Yes.’ At the time I didn’t really think it would be taken so personally. But I don’t really connect it with John as much as I connect it with my view of life. My view of life is the fact that there were many incredible negative elements in my life, and in the world, and because of that I had to conjure up a positive attitude within me in balance to the most chaotic … and I had to balance that by activating the ‘Yes’ element. ‘Yes’ is an expression that I always carried and that I’m carrying.”


Yoko Ono with her installation: Sky Ladders in her exhibition Sognare, Museo di Santa Caterina, Treviso, Italy Photo by Stephan Crasneanscki, 2007

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