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March 28, 2024


Since 2016, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) has been asking this question on social media each March during Women's History Month. Using the hashtag #5WomenArtists, the campaign calls attention to the fact that women have not been treated equally in the art world, and today they remain dramatically underrepresented and undervalued in museums, galleries, and auction houses.

Each year, hundreds of cultural organizations and thousands of individuals take to social media to answer the challenge, sparking a global conversation about gender equity in the arts. This year, MOCA has chosen five women artists to join the conversation and highlight the amazing projects on view in the museum. 


Portrait of Yoko Ono in the '70s

Yoko Ono

"Art is my life and my life is art." — Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono is a Japanese multimedia artist, singer, songwriter, and peace activist. As a child in Tokyo, Ono would take piano lessons and go to kabuki performances with her mother. Her family moved to New York City in 1940, while she remained in Tokyo. During this time, she would enroll in Keimei Gakuen, an exclusive Christian primary school run by the Mitsui family. While in school, she endured multiple bombings and the complete desolation of her city during World War II. Ono’s family remained in New York, while Ono struggled and developed her self-professed “aggressive” attitude and understanding of “outsider” status. After graduating from school in Japan, she enrolled in Sarah Lawrence College in New York where she would meet her first husband, composer Toshi Ichiyanagi. Ono worked several jobs, including being a secretary after she left college. In the early 1960s, she became associated with the Fluxus group and further developed her avant-garde style.

Yoko Ono's work Mend Piece for John from the SMS subscription boxes

In 1966, attempting to obtain an original song manuscript from Paul McCartney, Ono met Beatles singer John Lennon. Ono and Lennon would begin making music together as well as becoming protesters against the war in Vietnam. In 1969, the two would form the experimental Plastic Ono Band. Ono would release several albums and songs with Lennon, as well as making music as a solo artist, many of which achieved mainstream success. Ono continues to make conceptual art pieces and participate in exhibitions, as well as publishing books and films.

Portrait of Yoko Ono

Two works by Yoko Ono are currently on display at MOCA Jacksonville as part of the exhibition A Walk on the Wild Side: ‘70s New York in the Norman E. Fisher Collection, which is on view through July 17, 2024. The exhibition is presented in connection to MOCA’s 100th anniversary and features other artists like Andy Warhol, Philip Glass, David Bowie, Lynda Benglis, Robert Mapplethorpe, and more. The piece A Box of Smile was created in 1967, and Ono is quoted as saying, “I just wanted to have a box that people can look into, and when they’re sad and angry and all that, to see how it looks smiling.”

Yoko Ono's piece A Box of Smile