Articles

Her Irish Roots

Publication: L.A. LIFE – Daily News
By Mary Vose Special to the Daily News
Published May 23, 2000
 

Finding your roots can be a very personal discovery. For artist Maureen Gaffney Wolfson, the trip back to her ancestral home is a journey she wants to share with the world. "It was a journey I needed to take," says the 56-year-old Gaffney Wolfson of her 1993 trip to Ireland. "It was a spiritual one, and I felt there were guiding angels leading the way." It was her second search. The first trip, 10 years earlier, proved fruitless. What made the return trip successful was the support and perseverance of her husband. 

"Steve is my guardian angel. I just let him lead the way. It started in Galway when Steve told a man on our hotel elevator that we were in Ireland to find my Keadue, County Roscommon, family roots. He advised that we contact the trade minister, Terry Leyden, but we couldn't reach him. Then, in Roscommon, I was deeply struck by the Sacred Heart Church, and the monsignor there gave us Terry's home phone number." 

It was through Leyden's 93-year-old Keadue relative that the artist found the old Gaffney homestead still standing. It was a wonderfully happy reality and a deeply emotional experience for Gaffney Wolfson, as well as her husband. 

Returning to their Chatsworth home, the artist, who has been painting for 35 years, used images from hundreds of photographs and videos the Wolfsons had taken while in Ireland. The result was more than 70 paintings of the homestead, the surrounding countryside, the bogs, castles, horses, the Roscommon Racecourse and more. She uses an oil painting technique known as Renaissance glazing. It involves an elaborate structure of color and glaze that gives a depth and luminescence to her work.  It was through her husband's efforts, along with encouragement from Leyden, that Gaffney Wolfson had eight exhibitions of her paintings last year, four in the Irish Free State and four in Northern Ireland. 

A former Hollywood actress, singer and dancer who appeared on television and in the movies with many well-known entertainers, she left Hollywood in 1975 for New York. There she worked as a cabaret singer at night and painted during the day. In 1983, she received the Woman Artist of the Year Award from the International Beaux Arts Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the bonds of world peace and friendship by encouraging international creative activities. While in New York, her paintings were exhibited at the Bronx Museum, at UNICEF and the Centre Art Gallery in New York. 

Gaffney Wolfson's Irish paintings will be on display June 9-26 at the Genesis Gallery, 17412 Ventura Blvd., Encino. Call (818) 783-8371 for more information. 

"This is my first exhibition on the West Coast," Gaffney Wolfson said, "and I'm very excited about it."