For more than three decades, James “Jim” Lawrence Ochs has taught an art class in Iowa City.
“Painting and all 2-D techniques” was held from May to the end of June on Wednesdays, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
Ochs had taught those classes earlier at the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center. Later, those classes migrated to the Iowa City Senior Center, his son Phillip Ochs told Press-Citizen.
Jim Ochs was a successful Iowa City artist who has spent his life creating, learning more about his craft and sharing his knowledge with others.
He died on July 26 from COVID-19, something that had tested positive just a week earlier, according to his son. He was 79 years old.
Ochs was born in Denver, Colorado in 1943. He attended Colorado State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in painting and drawing.
He was then drafted to serve in the Vietnam War. Thanks to that experience, he had the opportunity to attend the University of Iowa through the GI Bill.
In Iowa, Ochs earned a master’s degree specializing in engraving, mastering intaglio and embossing techniques, choosing to do seminars and create his own work, Phillip said. Jim Ochs’ work has been exhibited at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the Iowa City Public Library, according to the Press-Citizen archives. It’s also likely displayed in the homes or offices of people across the Midwest, Phillip said.
Moreover:COVID cases in Johnson County decrease by 6.7%; The Iowa cases stand still
Ochs spent his time commuting between Iowa City and Quad Cities in the late 1970s, teaching printmaking workshops while building his own portfolio and selling work.
Over the years, his name would appear in the citizen press, including when he won an award at the 25th Annual Lakefront Arts Festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1987, but also related to his work at the Senior Center.
“Within the classroom itself and its surroundings, it becomes almost like a second family,” Jim Ochs told Press-Citizen in 2005.
One of Ochs’ series of the late 1980s and 1990s were the portraits, mostly shoulders up, which were very successful, his son said.
Phillip Ochs said his father’s work as an engraver and artist was laborious, describing his studio as a “factory”.
When Phillip was a kid, their garage had a full press, ink station, acid etching bath, and so on.
“Sometimes it was quite an ongoing operation, and always in the weeks leading up to the shows or in the weeks leading up to the summer we were doing a lot of shows,” he said.
Moreover:What the Iowans need to know about the new COVID-19 vaccine for children 6 months and older
Phillip said his father was fascinated by contemporary creation, not limited to just the means he worked with. He enjoyed being exposed to other artists and attended exhibitions and galleries to observe works that were new to him.
There he loved meeting new people and talking to them about his work.
He appreciated the discovery, especially evident to his son when he visited his father’s studio one day and heard music explode from his stereos.
He was from the rock group Sonic Youth.
“Have you ever listened to them?” Jim asked son about him.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, a little bit,'” Phillip said. “‘What made you passionate about Sonic Youth, Dad?’ He just read about them and he’s probably 60, maybe even 70 at that point… just always absorbing whatever he could that was out there.
Phillip described his father as “socially aware”. He helped Johnson County install voting machines for the election and said “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”
He said his father paid attention to what was going on and tried to stay informed.
Moreover:COVID-19 cases in Johnson County decline after the spring surge. Health officials warn residents to remain vigilant
His belief in democratic values, and his being “upset” by some of the things happening under President Donald Trump’s administration, haven’t stopped him from finding a middle ground with people, Phillip said.
“(He) just talked to people,” Phillip said. “He is never really presumptuous, judgmental.”
The two have participated in art exhibitions together. The latest was in March 2020, when Grinnell College presented works by artist Julie Mehretu.
Jim Ochs appreciated and admired his craft, and it is a memory that now stands out for Phillip.
“We would have gone to these shows and talked about them for weeks afterwards if it was really cool. (And) every now and then, maybe I would see little examples of some of those things popping up in his work, “Phillip said.
Phillip, also primarily a drawing and painting artist, had a joint exhibition with his father held at the Senior Center in 2015, something Jim Ochs has long wanted.
“He was always very supportive of the work I was doing,” said Phillip. “I have an art degree from the University (of Iowa) and I do my own thing and it’s always fun to show him the work and get his feedback. Conversely, like when I went to his studio and saw his workpieces, I gave him feedback. … For almost 20 years (we) have had this artistic relationship. “
Paris Barraza covers entertainment, lifestyle and art at the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Reach her at [email protected] or (319) 519-9731. Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.