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John Lennon’s Mic Leads Lead to Art

Artist James Wilkinson has created portraits of John Lennon out of the late Beatle's studio mic cables.

Two portraits from the Lennon Wired series by James Wilkinson.
Two portraits from the Lennon Wired series by James Wilkinson.

Liverpool, U.K. (July 25, 2022)—Many artists use microphone cables to bring their art to a larger audience, but in the case of James Wilkinson, the cables themselves are the art. Wilkinson’s new portrait exhibition, Lennon Wired, currently on display at Liverpool’s famed Strawberry Field, features 11 depictions of John Lennon created with a bevy of microphone leads—and those mic cables were previously owned by the late Beatle himself, who used them to record his iconic “Imagine,” among other tracks.

In 1970, Lennon built Ascot Sound Studios, a personal recording facility, on his 72-acre U.K. estate, Tittenhurst Park. Lennon and wife Yoko Ono lived at the estate from 1969 to 1971, when they moved to the U.S., ultimately selling the site to fellow Beatle Ringo Starr, who lived there from 1973 to 1988. During Lennon’s time at Tittenhurst Park, he used the eight-track facility to record the majority of his 1971 album Imagine; when the estate was sold to Starr, the drummer renamed it Startling Studios and opened it up for use by other artists, such as T. Rex and Judas Priest.

Wilkinson acquired the mic leads from a sale of recording equipment at Tittenhurst Park, and has now made the 11 portraits using segments from the cables to emulate the style of Lennon’s own sketches and handwriting.

John Lennon: Producer

Explaining his use of the mic cables, Wilkinson noted, “I’ve always had an interest in portraiture, but I developed a desire to put more into my work. I’d always try and get my subjects to put a part of themselves in there, whether that be some writing or even a thumbprint. If my subject was no longer alive, I’d find something that once belonged to them, something that was a part of their life, and incorporate that into the work. It’s something I’ve always done, and this collection, containing artifacts from the life of John Lennon, sits as a tribute to the message of love and peace he carried through his life.”

Music has informed Wilkinson’s work throughout his career. Previously an Artist in Residence at Hylands House, he was the first artist to be appointed Official Artist to the U.K.’s V Festival in 2012, and was later commissioned by the Amy Winehouse Foundation to produce a portrait of the late singer in 2015. Today, his work is owned by a number of musical artists, including members of The Rolling Stones, All Saints, The Prodigy, Oasis, McFly, Westlife and Happy Mondays. In 2020, he opened his first gallery, Pop Nouveau, in Sudbury, Suffolk.

The Lennon Wired art series is on exhibition at Strawberry Field in Liverpool, which is owned by The Salvation Army; the artworks will be on display to the public until the end of October, and for each item sold, at least 10 percent of the purchase price will be donated to The Salvation Army or Salvation Army Social Work Trust.