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Lowell Jones

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It was just like Lowell Jones to take up windsurfing in his 60's. The longtime Chico artist, who died of cancer November 22nd, at the age of 69, was an adventurous man who charted a zigzag course in life as he welcomed new experiences. For example, he took a leave of absence from his professorship at the University of Kentucky to work in the Canadian Arctic, where he was the first person ever to teach stone lithography to Inuit artists.

Similarly, in 1978 he chucked his well-paying university job and moved west, to Chico, where he determined to put his art first and making money second. For the rest of his life he survived off his art and by restoring British automobiles. For years he could be seen driving his little Morris around Chico.

Born in Bellevue, Iowa, in 1935 to Albert and Florence Pleiser Jones, Lowell always had two dominant talents: a flair for art, and sharp mechanical skill. They eventually merged in his artistic especially, kinetic sculpture.

After graduating from Bellevue's St. Joseph's High School in 1953, he joined the U.S. Navy serving as a radarman for four years aboard two different aircraft carriers plying the waters of the Far East. Afterwards, he attended the University of Wisconsin, Superior, working summers on the Illinois Central and Soo Line Railroads, and graduating with a BS degree in education, art emphasis.

He worked for a year at the Naval Shipyards at Hunter's Point, in San Francisco, and took a job teaching art at Duluth Central High School in Minnesota. From 1964-66 he attending the prestigious Cranbrook Academy or Art, in Michigan, where he received an MFA degree. That sent him to the University of Kentucky where he taught drawing, lithography and sculpture full time from 1966-78.

Lowell was a skilled lithographer and drawer, especially in charcoal, and his two-dimensional works were exhibited widely and often in Chico and elsewhere. But his greatest interest was in kinetic sculpture. In 1984 he built a large, solar-powered work entitled, "Performance Machine, Big O's," that was exhibited in the foyer of an office building at 245 Park Avenue, in New York City. (A small-scale version of this piece is located in the foyer of the Chico Municipal Building.) In 1987 a similar sculpture was sited in Orlando, Florida.

Lowell was a highly regarded and much-loved figure in the Chico art community, and a regular presence at art openings and other gatherings. He is survived by Carolyn Zimmerman; her husband Mike of Paradise; Annika Christie of Magalia; Behr Tharsing of Yreka; and four sisters all from the Midwest. He asked that memorial contributions be sent to the Bellevue Public Library, Bellevue, Iowa, where he found sanctuary and delight as a child. Lowell left his own message: "Most of my energy over the years has been focused on studying, teaching and attempting to produce art." Rest in peace, Lowell.
Published in Chico Enterprise-Record on Nov. 30, 2004
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