A Special Invitation

Today I received a surprise in the mail…. An invitation to attend my long-time friend, Jim Ochman’s art show in San Francisco.  Jim has been my friend since our Summer Semester abroad with Professors Jim and Alyson (MacMaugh) Adley, and the other MFA students (in 1976 or 1977). Women turned their heads because this was one  handsome guy. Blonde and blue-eyed and working on his MFA at Michigan State University, He was a gentleman who took me under his wing, like a big brother should (unlike my own), and we bonded. He was doing minimalist painting projects. He showed me photos of the large canvases with one color, sometimes only white. It was nothing like my work, which were pen & ink surrealistic and abstract works on paper, and exciting German Expressionist-like portraits.

Prior to my first semester abroad, I had been attending the Art Students League and working part-time in my father’s ad agency for the semester while on leave. My mother had urged me to leave Vassar and enroll in art school. (I had been labeled a creative genius, particularly in art and she wasn’t going to let me throw it away.)  I insisted that it was her goal, and I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t want her to be right, was what it was in my confused, immature adolescence. I wish I had listened to her.

Fortunately, I had taken EST, the Werner Ehrhart seminar training — a popular self actualization program, following my  father’s lead,  to “be  here now.”  My goal was to figure out what I would do next, continue at Vassar or transfer to an art school,  and to overcome  crippling shyness.  It worked because I was emboldened to apply to the graduate program with samples of my work and a shoddy freshman GPA. (And, I paid for it with my bas mitzvah savings.)

Jim, a Michigan Midwesterner, and fellowMFA students with MSU, were warm and friendly, and the art professor couple, Jim and Alison Adley were supportive and protective of me, the youngest participant.  I spent a lot of time with Jim in London. Our art class sessions  took place on the campus of Bedford College, London University. Besides creating art and keeping a graphic journal (submitted at the end), we visited museums and exhibits, and artists’ studios; wrote and discussed reports and critiques. It was a  6 credit honor graduate art course. Although I received a remarkable A+, Vassar didn’t give me credit! Art was natural to me, and I should have continued with art as a major, at that time, but instead forced myself to be academic and minored in art instead. During that summer session, Jim was a great friend.  There was no romance. I was an innocent, and he related to me as he would one of his sisters. After the summer, I was back at Vassar, and he graduated and moved to San Francisco. Over the passing years we remained in touch. Usually through snail-mail (because he is reluctant to dabble in social media).   Jim sends me gifts, which are tangible  pieces of his life, his current history with news clippings, ticket stubs, stamps, photos postcards, and other little items that held meaning. He is a beautiful person, inside and out and very spiritual. He was a devout Catholic and so it makes sense he would bring his art to a gallery within a church. I wish I could attend. I vaguely recall visiting him  when I was in San Francisco many years ago on route to or from Australia.

Jim had exhibited his work numerous times. Much to my chagrin, I never saw one of his shows. He lived too far away ,and I was engrossed in my career in Marketing Communications, and later teaching. He informed me that he was no longer exhibiting and that he had stopped painting.  I felt terrible about it, because it was part of his identity — both in how I related to him and as a form of his meditative spirit.

I was thrilled when I received an invitation to James Ochman’s show, “The Abstract Sublime” on Friday, June 2. The show runs from June through July 23. at the Manressa Gallery (inside St. Ignatious Church) 650 Parker Avenue, San Francisco, CA. If you are in or are going to San Francisco, please stop in. I can’t be there due to other obligations.The reception is from 5-7 PM on Friday, June 2.

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