wendy s. rolfe
monmouth, iowa | interviewed 2-27-2002
biographical sketch | artist's statement | interview clips
"Prayer for New York"
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copyright © 2001 Wendy S. Rolfe | All Rights Reserved
interview clips (mp3 audio & text)
I have a lot of family in New York. And almost immediately I could not get ahold of them. So I stuck with who I could get ahold of, and I'm talking to them on the phone, because I was all alone. And I think the most poignant moment for me was when the building fell, and then I lost it. I worked in Wall Street for five years, and I lived there for twelve years, so it was my town. So, I was a mess, and then my sister sort of talked me out of my hysteria, and then my husband said, "I'm coming home; go get the children." I was probably the only one in this area that went and got their children. We spent the day in prayer and we spent the day by the TV, and I wanted to be here with them. I wanted to open up the events with them.
I know that New York is beat up, and it'll never be the same. I used to go twice a year, and it was such a happy place for me to go. It's such an amazing place, you know. My heart just goes out to them.
I didn't work for two weeks. I couldn't do much. I think I was like a lot of artists, you just sort of thinkwhat is it all about? You think everything before is frivolous. Nothing makes sense. So I listened to a lot, and I read a lot, and I prayed a lot, and I tried to take in as much as I possibly could. And then, when I was ready to work, it came back to my faith.
I think my work has become much more faith-oriented, even a little bit more on the edge, and it doesn't matter anymore, because I realize we have to be true to ourselves. I don't care about the marketREALLY don't care about the market at this pointand I know my life, especially being in my forties, is extremely short and precious. So my work has become more deliberate than ever before, and I don't know what the results will be, and it's none of my business anymore.
One of the things I did, before I even really got back to painting was, I did probably 15 or so sconces. So what I began to do was to sort of throw my feet at the mercy of God and just started making these little prayer sconces. Some I gave away to people that needed them. And most of them I kept. I had a lot my friends who wrote poetry, send things to meI started to attach those to the sconces. Some of the things that I attached to the sconces are loose, so they have little hooks, so you can hook on different words and different poetry readings, different images of people that you're praying for. I had a lot of images of New York that I would hook on. And it helped to keep me steadfast in my prayers.
I've always been very grateful that I live in this country. I have traveled enough where I know what I have, especially the older that I get. I cannot tell you how impressed I was with so many people in this country. And when I hear people who are slightly anti-American, it's frustrating for me, because they live in such a generous place, and so I all the more don't understand when they can condemn this country. I know that we're not perfect; I know we have blood on our hands. I know that we have made mistakes. But we are free. It's just an amazing place. So all the more, as Americans, to fight for thatwe have never had to worry about that. We are a vulnerable country. I didn't think so before. So, we have to maybe fight for it, and we have to grow up.
I think that if all the arts were taken off the earth, the planet would go dark. I think it's what keeps us happy, it's what takes us beyond what is here and hard to bear. Though these are scary times, I'm very hopeful that this is going to bring the best out in so many people. And I'm much more interested in looking at art now than I was before, because I see some artists that are going very deep, and it's made all the difference. And people are connecting and they're communicating, and artists are contacting each other and they want to work together. That's the other thing that I think has come out of this, we're learning to work together instead of being so independent. I want to come together now, and collaborate, and be with people, and put together projects, and work with young people.
Wendy S. Rolfe was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1958. She also grew up there, and was second to the last of five children.
She attended the University of Tampa and the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, but received her B.F.A. from Parsons School of Design in New York. She met her husband, an Iowa native, in New York. They moved to Iowa in 1990.
She lives with her husband and two daughters on an acreage near Monmouth, Iowa, where she works in oil on wood panel, with tin and other media.
Since our great National Tragedy, my work has become more prayerful in context and essence. The work continues to include the "feminine" with a pronounced spiritual theme, but now with a deeper and more personal urgency.
In accordance with the Hispanic Tinwork of New Mexico (1840-1940) I am combining more painted tin in and around my paintings as well as decoupage tin, sewn wire with beans and painted glass with chicken wire on sconces.
The piece I entered touches upon this theme of self expression of inner fear and personal religious empowerment of hope and renewal. "Prayer for New York" is a tin candle sconce (of which I made many in the aftermath) as active vehicle of prayer and comfort.
It is my desire for all of us as a nation and global world to remain vigilant, especially for those who have been forever touched by these events.