Fine Art Shippers has had the pleasure to deliver the artworks of the late Townsend Wolfe III, who was a former longtime director and chief curator of the Arkansas Arts Center (now The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts) and is recognized for initiating an art revival in the state during his 34-year tenure. His daughter-in-law, Frankie Avalon Wolfe, has shared with us her memories of him and her mother-in-law, prominent artist Connie Mississipi.
Townsend Wolfe III and Connie Mississippi: Art as a Life
Before we jump to the interview, we are delighted to introduce Frankie herself.
Frankie Avalon Wolfe holds a Ph.D. in holistic nutrition and a master’s degree in holistic healing. She has developed a certification program for professional reflexology and authored numerous works in this field. Her books include “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being Vegetarian,” “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Reflexology,” and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Herbal Remedies,” which were released by Macmillan Publishers.
Townsend Wolfe III was a prominent figure in the art world who served as the director of the Arkansas Arts Center for more than three decades. And he was an artist as well. Can you describe what kind of person he was?
Frankie Avalon Wolfe: When I think of him, his remarkable personality always brings a smile to my face. He was a kind and generous man, radiating warmth and compassion wherever he went. His strength made him a dependable protector, and his captivating personality drew everyone toward him.
Like a magnet, he attracted people who wanted to do things for him. He was a natural leader who inspired and guided others, and art was his true passion. Teaching was something he enjoyed, and he was dedicated to making art a significant part of his city and state. His success was apparent, and it was evident that it held a great deal of importance to him.
Townsend Wolfe left behind a collection that includes both his own artwork and pieces by other artists. I know you have donated most of it. Could you tell us more about the collection and where it went?
In Idaho, we lived in a beautiful 5,000-square-foot home atop a mountain with breathtaking views of the surrounding ranges. We had a lot of space to display the paintings, so we put them up on the walls. However, when we moved to a smaller home and later to a little cabin, we had to put the paintings in storage as there was no room to display them. After my father-in-law passed away, we didn’t want to discard the paintings, but we still had no space for them. Eventually, we decided to donate them to a worthy cause. One of them went to the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, which my father-in-law directed. This painting, titled “The Birthday Party,” features Townsend Wolfe III and Connie Mississippi when they were briefly married, and my husband (Townsend Wolfe IV) as a baby. Others works were taken by art collectors. We kept a few paintings for ourselves including the one my father-in-law painted for my husband’s college graduation as it has sentimental value.
Why did you select Fine Art Shippers for the delivery of the artwork to the museum?
We actually had trouble finding a shipping company because we were off the beaten path in the Colorado mountains. Eventually, we came across Fine Art Shippers, who delivered our items to their destination flawlessly.
Now let’s talk about Connie Mississippi, your mother-in-law. She is a renowned artist whose works have earned a place in some of the most prestigious private and public collections, including the Smithsonian. Could you share your perspective on her artistry? How do you perceive her as a person and an artist?
My mother-in-law is an exceptional woman. Connie transforms old, lifeless trees into stunning sculptures using one of the largest wood-turning lathes in North America. Her talent has captured the attention of many admirers, including Whoopi Goldberg, who has commissioned her for a piece. A world-renowned collector even had one of her wooden sculptures cast in bronze.
However, Connie’s creativity is not limited to wood sculpture alone; she also paints and creates mesmerizing, esoteric pieces. Her paintings are often inspired by dreams, and she adds a personal touch by writing on them, enhancing the depth of her work. Whenever I attend one of her exhibitions, I am always spellbound by her stunning creations. She crafts sculptures of all shapes and sizes, from towering structures to delicate, rounded objects. Describing the incredible nature of her work is a daunting task, and I find myself struggling to express just how phenomenal it truly is.
Can you recall how you first met your mother-in-law? What was your initial impression of her?
The story of how I met my mother-in-law actually starts with how I met my husband, which is an incredible story in and of itself. At the time, Connie and her spouse were residing in LA, while I was residing in Colorado, and our paths crossed when my husband and I became friends due to our respective partners’ affairs. We were both struggling and unsure of what to do next. One day, my now-husband suggested we attend his mother’s art show in LA. I figured, why not? It was entirely platonic, and I needed a distraction from the emotional turmoil.
When we arrived at the airport, Connie and her husband picked us up, and I was struck by her natural, youthful beauty. I initially mistook her for my husband’s sister. However, she was, in fact, his mother, and that was my first impression of her. It’s been 27 years now, and my husband and I are still happily married, and I am proud to have Connie as my mother-in-law.
Photos from the family archive
Featured image: Frankie Avalon Wolfe and Townsend Wolfe IV at Connie Mississippi’s show at the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia, PA
Photo 4: Frankie Avalon Wolfe and Connie Mississippi
Photo 5: Townsend Wolfe IV surrounded by Connie Mississippi’s sculptures in Santa Fe