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Lake Buckley is an award-winning designer and creative director working across film, branding, photography and illustration. In 2017, she turned down an in-house role at Patagonia to launch her freelance design career in a tiny studio in Brooklyn, New York.
Since then her work has earned a Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Award, SPD Awards, recognition from the Walker Art Center and has been showcased at Type Directors Club and Sundance Film Festival.
She currently works with a small and mighty team at SpecialGuest in Dumbo – a communication and art company with a knack for experimentation and disruptive thinking.
“Recently I’ve been reading graphic novels. I like the medium because it feels like a hybrid of literature and film. Two recent favourites have been 'Here' by Richard McGuire and 'Asterios Polyp' by David Mazzucchelli. Since graduate school, my continued design education generally takes the form of lectures, articles and discussions with friends, but here are some of the design related books that had a big impact on me.”
We asked Lake to kindly share her favourite books. Ones that have helped shape her successful career so far. Lake, it's over to you.
1. Seeing Form by Anther Kiley
This is not a classic book you can buy from Amazon, it’s a student thesis book from RISD. I read
it while I was attending graduate school and it was incredibly liberating to have the importance
of formal design education positioned within an academic context. Many design school
environments put emphasis on the academic and conceptual nature of design, without fully
celebrating that ‘form’ in design can be expressive of, and justified by the process of its making.
This text looks at the way we have constructed meaning and assigned value to the construct of
‘form’ within design and how this meaning has changed over time. As someone who believes in
a methodology of ‘thinking through making’, this book allowed me to understand my own
process while contextualizing it within larger design discourse.
“The great trick of graphic design is to appear to be on the surface while actually occupying the
core.” – Mark Wigley
This text feels more like entering a conversation than reading an omniscient point of view, while
loosely positioning design to be neither form nor content but the interstitial space between. It
inspired me to view graphic design as a form of inquiry that can invite participation from a
viewer. The article ‘Fuck Content’ was especially meaningful to me at the time I read it, it
revealed the subjective nature of design and design discourse as something that is continually
evolving with its makers.
There are no words in this book, but you can still read it, and it’s pure delight. Uta Eisenreich is
interested in speaking with objects, as well as the history of symbolism associated with them.
She plays with the shortcomings of our cognitive toolkit while exploring how to write sentences
with objects alone. The book is a series of cognitive puzzles that flip-flop between common
sense and nonsense (my favourite territory). This book, as well as the early film work of William
Wegman (before he started working with dogs), helped me to recognize the type of humour I love
in design, and in the world.
Her work caused me to go down a rabbit hole of reading about humour and trying to crystallise
what I was feeling into words. Through this research, I came to the term ‘Incongruous Humor.’
Huzzah! This is the type of humour sparked when the logical is cast against the absurd in a
mismatch of ideal and actual. As New York Times writer Jim Holt describes, we laugh when “two
things normally kept in separate compartments in our minds are unexpectedly yanked together.”
The joke forces a perception of incongruity. Puns, surrealism, words that have one meaning but
we supplant with another, this is the humour of incongruity, and I love it.
(This book is one of the hardest books to find out there, check the special collections of Yale,
RISD, Princeton, Colombia or International Center for Photography library.)
I read this book nearly a decade ago, but it was relevant then and it’s relevant now. In summary,
this book engages with the realities of making more stuff while living on a finite planet with finite
resources. It invites the viewer to see how finding creative solutions to internalizing externalities
can be lucrative and also drive market competition towards sustainability. Justifying making
more crap in the world on a daily basis is difficult, so the more designers can engage with the
broader context of the material world and its limits, the better.
I rarely finish academic design books. To be honest, I think there are still 20 pages waiting for
me of this book, but I love the ideas in it. It made me realize how architectural spaces influence
the nature of my thoughts and the archiving of my memories.
Creative Boom is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.
Based in Chicago, Other Studio was founded by art director and multi-disciplinary graphic designer Eileen Tjan and works across design and branding work for clients across artsy print publications and branding for organisations like AIGA to some great work for a sex toy brand.
Now, though, we’re shining a spotlight on its fantastic work for online restaurant-reservation service, OpenTable. The resulting photography and art direction are so striking it looks like that of a high-end editorial spread—all bright colours, fashion-mag inspired layouts and a sheen that makes everything look so delicious we’re practically drooling and simultaneously way too good to eat.
Working with photographer Alex Wallbaum, prop stylist Dom Cordilla, food stylist Jillian McCann and florist Rose Hoffeld; the team Other Studio was briefed to concept, art direct, produce shoot and retouch more than 30 images that would help define a new distinct, vibrant direction for OpenTable.
The imagery is used to differentiate the platform’s new series of restaurant categories. “The photographic art direction provided moments of delight and defined a unique visual experience, separating OpenTable from competitors,” says the studio.
“The introduction of these restaurant categories allowed for a new type of discovery on Opentable.com. Audiences could easily find a curated list of the best bars in a city or most romantic spots for a date. Other’s approach to creating a concept forward image supported a wide variety of restaurant categories and scenes.
It's charming to see the crude sketches below that outline what finally became such confident, slick imagery that would work as well on a gallery wall than on a restaurant app.
Changing to a creative career takes a lot of time and money, right? Wrong. If you can’t afford much of either, you’re in luck.
Shillington is offering half scholarships for its three months full-time and nine months part-time courses this September in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, New York, London and Manchester. Basically, you can get 50% off course fees and retrain or upskill for a brand new design career. Apply by 8 July – don’t miss your chance!
Plus, if that wasn't enough, this year Shillington is also partnering with Champion to offer one full scholarship for its full-time course in London this September.
One successful applicant will receive 100% off total course fees. Champion is a creative enterprise with a social mission to champion young creative talent (under 25s) from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This is the third year that Shillington has offered scholarships. In 2018, Jordan Kenneth Kamp won a scholarship in New York. He had no prior design experience when he enrolled in the part-time Shillington course. His background was in theatre – working as an actor, producer and filmmaker.
His scholarship submission was a funny video describing how his work as a visual storyteller complements his interest to become a designer. Check it out below.
Speaking of his experience, Jordan said: "If there’s even an inkling of desire to attend Shillington, it’s important to recognise that taking the leap is maybe the hardest part. It’s not easy saying yes to something new and unfamiliar, something that you have no idea if you’ll even be successful at, but choosing to live a life of pursuit is a rewarding endeavour."
Elsewhere, Carolyn Hawkins won a half scholarship in Melbourne last year. She went straight to art school to study printmaking and worked as an art technician at two high schools, amongst other things. She was even running her own illustration studio.
With such a mixture of projects and responsibilities, Carolyn said: "I felt like I was always fumbling my way through the Adobe Suite and the design process in general. Basically, I wanted to get better at these things and learn things the ‘right’ way. My dream is to spend more time on freelance design and illustration and to approach these things with greater confidence."
Following a successful scholarship application, she enrolled on Shillington's part-time course in Melbourne. "I’ve found it has been like the missing link in consolidating all the seemingly disparate skills I have into a more cohesive creative practice."
Other past winners include Tara Cosgrave-Perry who was freelancing part-time and working in retail when she applied for Shillington's scholarship. She'd studied design and illustration at Enmore Design Centre in Sydney, which gave her a drive for design but she felt she still lacked confidence in her skills.
"When I moved to Brisbane a few years ago I immersed myself into the local design circles by attending events like creative mornings, the Design Conference Brisbane and The Design Kids, where I met a lot of wonderful, talented people," Tara said. "Often in conversation, it would come up that they had studied at or highly recommended Shillington. Last year I decided to check out a Shillington graduation with a friend, and I was utterly blown away by all of the student portfolios. I was so impressed that such incredible content could be learned and produced in such a short amount of time."
Tara added: "If you’re ready to up your design game, Shillington is an amazing resource to get you there in a short amount of time. Brush up on design principles and be open to experimenting and pushing your boundaries. Enjoy the ride!"
I’ve never been good at riddles: those sort of problems that generally seem to involve cabbages, goats, boats and the like are utterly baffling.
So it was interesting to see one such riddle brought toile in such a beautiful, beguiling and psychedelic way by director Winnie Cheung, a Hong Kong-born, Queens-raised, Brooklyn based filmmaker who frequently collaborates with artists across various disciplines, using illustration, animation, and dance to “place the corporeal body within surreal spaces.”
Her recent film Albatross Soup scooped a Vimeo Staff Pick and tells a story based on the real-life riddle Albatross Soup, where one is asked "A man goes into a restaurant and orders albatross soup. After he eats, he goes outside and shoots himself. Why?"
Throughout the colourful, swirling animation and polyphony of voices garnered from interviews with more than 50 people trying to solve the riddle asking only answers that could be answered “yes” or “no”, the short uses a rapid-fire kaleidoscopic soundscape and god-like voice providing clues as to whether the guessers are along the right track.
A warning: things get pretty dark; though this is somewhat mitigated by the mesmerising, swirling animation style and lysergic rainbows of the visuals as the story unfurls.
“I knew instantly that this stream of consciousness guessing game would be the perfect premise for an animated short,” says Cheung. “Examining different creative approaches has been the driving force behind this project.”
We won’t give the game away—just watch it—but things are pretty disturbing, but in being so, incredibly beautiful.
At the Venice Biennale, every pavilion has to work hard to be noticed; and while that comes down to the art it houses, it also means the branding and graphic design has to be pretty special.
German graphic designer Mirko Borsche was commissioned to create the branding for the Venezia Pavilion in the main Giardini – a big deal, since this represents the city of Venice itself and is the only city to have its own pavilion.
Borsche created a new abstract neon yellow motif inspired by the symbol of Venice – the lion of San Marco, which appears across the city on everyday objects and buildings, including signs, posters, flags and public transport and on the façade of one of the first and oldest hotels in Europe, Palazzo Ca da Mosto. As such, it’s been posited that the symbol could become not just a symbol for the pavilion, but for Venice itself, and was created to physically "go viral".
Borsche was brought in to work on the project by Stelios Kois, a Greek architect who co-curated the space, who he had worked with on a previous project.
The lion motif is deliberately reduced and abstracted, and the branding also uses simple geometrical graphic elements that work to represent the six boroughs of Venice in the lines of its wings.
“By making this symbol big and the information about the Pavilion small, we knew that most people would misinterpret it as the corporate identity of the Biennale, which strongly relates to the concept of fake news,” Borsche told It’s Nice That.
The Venezia Pavilion exhibition tells the story of the city through an immersive installation engaging all the senses by seven artists including Plastique Fantastique, Mirko Borsche himself and Fabio Viale, as well as a city-wide arts initiative.
You've spent eight or nine hours at your desk, except for a quick break for lunch. You've made progress. It's been a good day. So why do you feel you should be doing more?
This anxious feeling – that we're never doing enough – where does it come from? Is it a modern affliction? One brought on by social media and screen-scrolling? Or is freelancing to blame? The constant need to push ahead from the fear of being left behind?
I never used to feel this way. Back in the days of "employment", I'd have strict boundaries on when work began and when it finished. When I left the office, I went home and that was that. I mentally pulled a curtain down on my job and relaxed, cherishing my evenings and weekends. (Mind you, Instagram wasn't around back then, so that probably helped.)
But being a business owner is different. I make my own rules. Set my own hours. Decide what's what. Unfortunately, that can mean an unhealthy work schedule. One that probably begins on my smartphone as I switch off my morning alarm and sadly ends just before I pass out each night.
As someone who grew and (deliberately) downsized a PR agency and built an online magazine, it's not surprising that I get anxious and feel I'm never doing enough. All of the emails I get these days from people asking for help – it's wonderful to be in that position but also daunting. Plus with so much competition out there, I understand that if I'm not pushing on, someone younger with more energy might overtake me and then where will I be?
Anxious thoughts aside, at the beginning of 2019, I vowed to make some serious lifestyle changes that would effectively make my life better. Building back my confidence was one major focus. Getting a decent work/life balance was another. On the latter, I'm still working on it but I'm getting there. Here, I will share what's worked for me so far. (And no, it's not simply a case of sitting on a bench next to a rosemary plant, whilst sipping coffee and staring whimsically into space...)
Get organised for mental clarity and calm
I start each day with a to-do list that's realistic, adding one big job and a few small ones. I get the larger job out the way first, as this will take up the most energy and time. Then I roll my sleeves up and tackle the rest. By sorting everything planned, I feel in control. I know where I am with things. I can close the door on "work" and say hello to "play".
I use Things to keep track of tasks. It's in the cloud so syncs with my Mac and mobile, making everything more manageable. Before I switch off my computer at the end of each day, I like to go through upcoming tasks and add anything I might need to consider in future. Call it a "brain dump", if you will. A mental cleanse.
By ticking things off my list, l feel amazing – as though I've accomplished something. By keeping track of what's next, I don't even think about work during downtime. I also constantly remind myself that I can only do so much.
Consider what the "more" really is
When I've had a really productive day and I'm trying to wind down for the evening, if I still get that niggling feeling that I should be doing more, I sift through the mental noise and figure out what "more" actually is.
It could be a job I've been putting off. In which case, I grab a notepad and start to write a plan of action to address the next day. Or it might be something that's building up – for example, emails to Creative Boom (and there are so many of them) get organised into different folders to tackle on quieter days. It could be something else I'm anxious about – have I done enough marketing this week? Should I write a blog post? What about another tips article?
Face up to the "more" and make a plan to address it. If it's not so logical – if you can't pinpoint what "more" is – then practice a little mindfulness through meditation, exercise or even ironing to alleviate any stress or unexplained anxiety.
Recognise the self-inflicted pressure and release the valve
If you work for yourself, there's a huge pressure to constantly make, create, improve, see and do. It's never-ending. This is only made worse by scrolling through our Instagram feeds or browsing blogs and magazines that bombard us with the usual "hustle" rhetoric. (I know I've been guilty of this in the past – a bit of a grey area, as a lot of Creative Boom's success can be attributed to hard work and sacrifice.)
We're so petrified we'll get left behind or work will stop coming in, we daren't stop. We keep running on our self-made treadmills. And now we're all exhausted by it. You can see just how much on Twitter. Mental health is a trending topic. People are opening up, admitting they can't cope. (Revelation: we can't keep running!)
But all that pressure along with high expectations are self-inflicted. No one is to blame but ourselves. That's the truth. It's a reality we must recognise. I'm certainly trying to.
I've asked myself the question lately, who am I trying to impress? It's a question we should all ask. Why the pressure? If it's fear of work drying up, that's only natural. But if work is fine, clients are happy and bills are more than covered, why aren't we chilling out?
Take a moment to ask yourself honestly, does any of it really matter? For instance, if you didn't post something on Instagram today would everything be ok? Could the side project take a break this evening, for a change? How about switching off completely and taking a day off? Take a deep breath and relax. The world will continue to spin without you chained to your desk.
Meanwhile, if you're feeling guilty about "doing nothing", remember that you're no good to anyone if you don't take some time off. Rest is important. You have to recharge your batteries to be effective at work. I know this only too well, having experienced burnout first-hand and then not being able to handle anything. Prioritise your health and wellbeing.
If you're feeling especially rough, avoid inspiration from others
Yes, that's right. Get off Creative Boom and It's Nice That. Temporarily delete Instagram from your smartphone. In fact, hide the smartphone – shove it down the sofa. Don't go to creative talks to hear from people you admire or who run successful design agencies. Yes, really. Hide for a little while.
(I went to a creative conference last year and the general mood from some other freelancers was sombre. Many felt overwhelmed by hearing from such inspirational speakers. "How will I ever be good enough?" was the theme of conversation. It was as though a dreaded cloud had fallen upon an anxious audience.)
Give your brain some breathing space. Be alone and ignore everyone else. Stop the endless comparison. You'll find your anxiety starts to lift when you're not constantly being bombarded by "greatness".
In the words of Pablo Picasso, "Without great solitude no serious work is possible."
Avoid comparing yourself to others
It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to your competition, but it's a truly fruitless exercise. What they're doing has no relation to your business whatsoever. They are on a personal journey of highs and lows, mistakes and lessons. It's unlikely that you'll gain success by copying them. Because you won't have been through the process yourself.
You have to focus on your own strengths. The very essence of what makes you unique. Creative Boom, for instance, has gone through many changes over the last 10 years. I've made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons. But it's always been what works best for me and my audience.
When people come to me and say, "I really want to start an online magazine like you, how can I make it a success?" I shrug my shoulders and say, "Honestly, you're on your own path and only you know what's best." It's the truth. Ten years of doing this and I'm not sure I'd know where to start with advice on running a magazine – any tips I'd offer would probably become outdated rather quickly.
Speaking of success, what does success mean to you? Is it money related? Will you feel happy once your business hits a certain turnover mark or size? Or is it about the car you drive or the house you own? Is "success" about wealth, happiness or both? What are you striving for?
It sounds ridiculous to ask this question but have you ever stopped to consider where you're heading?
For me, I always had a vague idea of what I wanted from life. I knew I wanted to be a journalist. That was pretty clear. I knew that I wanted to be happy and see the world. I'm not sure money was ever a priority but I definitely wanted enough to be safe. To have a nice home. To have holidays in the south of France. But I've never really stopped to think, what next? It's all been rather sporadic. None of it really planned.
As for the very meaning of success – for me, that's a tricky one. Its definition hasn't really changed as I've got older. I just wanted to be happy. That's it. Nothing more. To do something I loved for a living and smile a lot.
I think I've always remembered that but, like many, have fallen into the trap of overwork and the need to achieve more, more, more. That's just the circle I've found myself in.
Now I've turned 40, I realise that "work", although still important, is no longer the main priority. Instead, I'm seeing that having more "time" is the ultimate goal.
That means I'm learning to say "no" more. I'm deliberately turning things down to become less busy and gain more time to focus on other pursuits. It's been a slow process but I'm much happier.
Work is just one aspect of our lives; it shouldn't be the only thing we're passionate about. To me, success means covering your bills, having a decent work/life balance and following your passions. It means being healthy and appreciating each day. What does success mean to you? You might find you've been prioritising the wrong things.
Enjoy the journey as well as the destination
Do you know those people who hate travelling? I'm not one of them. I love the process of packing my suitcase, going through security at the airport and settling down in my seat to look out the window and watch the clouds float by. I love the anticipation of the upcoming holiday. I get butterflies.
This probably comes from my lucky childhood. Both my parents worked incredibly hard to give me and my brother a wonderful life. But once a year, for two glorious weeks, we would drive to the south of France for a holiday.
Before we even got there, it was special. My mother had such a gift in creating magic out of the mundane, she would get us all excited about the whole journey. The night before the "big drive south", my father would pack the boot of our car like some military operation. We were under strict instruction not to disturb him, as he had a "system" that he would religiously follow. He knew how to pack that car better than anyone, so we left him to it. But weirdly, you could see he enjoyed it. (I, too, have picked up this strange habit.)
And then we were off. The hovercraft or ferry was an adventure. Spotting the French car number plates and figuring out where they were from – that was fun. Watching the countryside flash past. The anticipation of what our accommodation might be like. It was all wonderful.
You can see what I'm getting at here – rather than focus on the actual outcome, enjoy the process. Work isn't just about results, it's about the journey we take to get there. Savour it. Enjoy the little "wins" along the way. And understand that things don't happen overnight.
Practice gratitude daily
As humans, we'll always want "more". That's just part of our nature. A bigger cave, a nicer patch of land – it's how we've survived as a species. But in this modern age, we should recognise that having more doesn't necessarily make us happier. It's about recognising what we already have. What we feel blessed for.
Good health could be one of them. A happy family. A roof over our heads. The simple but hugely important things that we often take for granted.
It's not about what car we have sat on our driveway. Nor is it about having an Instagrammable home. Be grateful simply for what's happening right now. Come on, I'll start and you can practice gratitude along with me.
I'm grateful for my upbringing and all the opportunities it has given me. I'm grateful for my family and friends. I'm grateful my back isn't hurting today and that I might go for a run later. I'm grateful for the rain, as my garden has never looked so healthy. I'm grateful that my "side project" has become my main focus. Now your turn...
Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small
Instead of focusing on what happens next, take a moment to celebrate how far you've already come. I'm doing exactly that this year. This summer, Creative Boom is celebrating 10 years of supporting the creative community. And let me tell you, I didn't even think about marking the occasion until a dear friend said I should.
Like a good old Brit, I thought, well, I don't want to show off. And really, it's no big deal. But I'm discrediting all the hard work and love that has gone into this "side project" over a decade of my life. There is, indeed, so much to celebrate. And celebrate it I shall.
I've got some announcements to make next month on our 10th-anniversary. Until then, know this – we should all recognise our successes and wins. No matter how small. We don't do it enough. So next time you're thinking about all the things you should be doing, sit back and recognise what has already come to pass. You're doing absolutely great. Be proud of yourself and all you've achieved.
Those are my own thoughts on beating "treadmill anxiety", as I like to call it. You can see what other freelancers and creatives do to cope by checking out this Twitter thread. As always, I may update this article with further tips in future.
Tomorrow marks the two-year anniversary of the tragic Grenfell fire, which took the lives of 72 people in central London.
Over the last 12 months, Tom Cockram has been photographing the survivors, the bereaved and the wider Grenfell community. His series of photographs are part of an awareness campaign, in partnership with the organisation Grenfell United, set up to seek justice and help catalyse systemic change.
You can see the series in a new exhibition, Never Forget Grenfell, which will run for three days from Thursday 20 June at Shop Eight in Dray Walk at Truman Brewery.
The show follows the moving and powerful video shot by Tom last year featuring survivors of the fire and high profile supporters of the campaign including Stormzy, Akala and Adele. In the words of those in the video: "We are not asking for money, we are not asking for sympathy, we are demanding change. Change, so that families up and down the country are safe in their homes. Change, so that people no matter where they live are treated with dignity and respect."
The poster design for the exhibition was created by Anthony Burrill. "Tom Cockram asked me to work on the poster and I said yes immediately," Anthony said.
"The photographs he gave me to work with are incredibly powerful and moving. I cropped in tightly to underline the depth of emotion captured in the photographs. The type I used is wood letter, it has a raw and human feel that reflects the message of the exhibition."
The ’90s are pretty trendy now – look around and marvel at the plethora of Kappa, Ellesse, bumbags, the return of the Spice Girls; and the graphic designers’ love of
post-ironic MS Paint lookalikes.
Like any form of nostalgia that’s most readily co-opted by those too young to remember it the first time around, it’s easy to forget the less, well, cool side of things.
Here to remind us of the crispy perms and greased back curtains that sat atop the heads of ’90s-folk is a superb new book from London-based graphic design studio Patrick Fry. Entitled To Evelyn, Posters from the Stars, the book draws together a collection of posters promoting local entertainers at a working men’s club in a small Yorkshire pit village.
“Originally collected in the 1990s by local personality Evelyn Short and now assembled by her grandson David, the posters are a celebration of a bygone era,” Fry explains.
“Pre-internet and social media, this was one of the few ways to create another you, presenting an identity far removed from the day to day. The book explores national identity and sense of self, reminding us that with the right imagination we can transform into anyone or anything. The posters, many signed ‘To Evelyn’ celebrate those identities, the weekend superstars, in all their glory.”
The images are absolutely brilliant; and if the likes of Pink Gin, resplendent in pleather against a shimmering purple backdrop, don’t make you smile, perhaps nothing will. The book is published by CentreCentre.
We previously covered Fry’s work when he created a beautiful book celebrating the unappreciated designs of the humble brick.
Oval, a new strategic design studio offshoot of creative agency Mr President, recently unveiled its new branding for London Bronze Casting, a group working with various processes and tools with the aim of pushing the boundaries of their craft; working with traditional means alongside new technologies like 3D scanning.
The studio was bought in for the project when LBC realised that its business ambitions were growing beyond casting, and this would mean requiring a new brand identity to help push new business areas such as collecting and selling the casted works that it creates.
Oval spent several days onsite at the foundry, to observe the process of the makers and creators working together and noted the “number of parts involved in creating a single work,” says the studio. This led them to create a mutable brand identity that uses a colour palette rooted in the casting process with a custom designed logo font.
“From spending a lot of time at the foundry and understanding how London Bronze Casting worked, we saw the extensive parts of the process that went into producing these amazing pieces of artwork, from melting the wax at the beginning of the casting process to forging their own tools bespoke to each job,” says James Andrews, head of design at Oval.
“From watching them work, we know that with London Bronze Casting, the end product is the culmination of the process. That’s what informed our logo, a bespoke modern and elegant wordmark that can be broken down and put back together as building blocks for the brand.”
The new identity aims to “bring together its new business areas and sets the stage for its next phase of growth with an adaptable brand that is more than the sum of its parts.”
Instead of taking a fee for the design work, Oval opened to instead get a share in one of the sculptures in LBC’s “The Collection” when it sells.
Born in Tokyo, Ono studied philosophy before moving to New York in 1953 and soon become a key figure in the city’s avant-garde scene. In 1960, she opened her Chambers Street loft and presented a series of radical works with composer and artist La Monte Young.
One of her most famous works, Cut Piece, was first performed in 1964 and saw the artist sit alone on a stage in her best suit, with a pair of scissors in front of her. The audience had been instructed that they could take turns approaching her and use the scissors to cut off a small piece of her clothing, which was theirs to keep.
Over her long and prodigious career, Ono has long been fascinated with the sky. According to the Heong Gallery, which is hosting an exhibition of Yoko Ono’s work, this started with her exile from Tokyo during the World War II bombing raids; and the sky has since been used as a metaphor for peace, freedom, the unknowable and the eternal. “All my life, I have been in love with the sky,” Ono said in 1992.
Entitled Yoko Ono, Sky Pieces, the exhibition marks the artist’s return to Cambridge 50 years since her first visit and her debut public concert with John Lennon, the recording of which was released as Cambridge 1969.
Yoko Ono, Wish Tree for Louisiana (1996/2013), as part of “YOKO ONO: HALF A WIND SHOW – A RETROSPECTIVE”, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark, 2013. Photo by Bjarke Orsted. Courtesy of Yoko Ono
The exhibition features more than 90 early, recent and new works, most of which are participatory and will evolve as the exhibition unfolds. The central piece of the exhibition will be a new configuration of Sky TV (1966/2019) in which a closed-circuit camera will record the sky, transmitting real-time views through a network of twenty-five television monitors into the gallery.
Among the participatory works are one that offers visitors the opportunity to scream against the sky in Voice Piece for Soprano (1961/2019). You can also “buy” her art (and the air) with the piece Air Dispenser (1971/2019), which sells capsules apparently filled with fresh air.
Other works include a piece that aids visitors in reaching the sky itself, in the form of Skyladders (1992/2019). Works like this exemplify Ono’s sense of playfulness and optimism – her use of art as a tool for wider social connection and happiness – as does her ongoing series of Wish Trees on which visitors can “hang a wish on a tree branch in the hope that it will fly with the doves up into the sky at night,” in the words of the gallery.
Also included in the programme will be a performance of Sky Piece to Jesus Christ
(1965/2019), screenings of FLY (1970) and Apotheosis (1970), both co-directed with John Lennon; and a day-long symposium with the participation of international scholars, which will explore the many facets of Ono’s work to date.