E. Charles Rolwing III

b. 1958, Fairfield, CA


1983 University of Louisville, BA, Fine Art

1985 Ohio University, MFA, Photography

1986 Ohio University, MFA, Printmaking

Rolwing grew up in Louisville, KY, graduated from the University of Louisville, with a B.A. in fine art. He then received M.F.A.’s in both printmaking and photography from Ohio University in 85 and 86. Upon graduation he moved to Chicago, where, with no access to a press or darkroom he began painting in oils as well as watercolor.


Rolwing readily steps into his painting process with a head full of visual fodder that inevitably includes the flotsam and jetsam of Americana. The remains of the consumerist society where all is disposable. Rolwing stays open to reworking his images and a silent but vibrant narrative emerges. Here, silence is key. The piece finds itself through this turbulence, emotion and idea it’s own reward. The figure is between emotions, and space is taken in grids, nature is quantified for consumption. It is this investigation of accident and chaos, in an interaction between symbols that create new meanings and possibilities. All is in proper questions. His process keeps him connected to the continuum of human existence and history, where the artwork becomes the remnants of that experience.

Charles Rolwing’s is not a face in the crowd. It is the crowd. Self-portraiture as African mask, bobble-head, clown, stoic, and Mickey Mouse ears grasp for a childhood innocence. Rolwing’s disembodied heads give nod to Phillip Guston, Andy Warhol, George Baselitz, and Lucien Freud–an Academy vast in number. His canvases are greedy with texture and color, overfed, aching to speak. And they do, they speak volumes, with lips tightly shut.

There is a place between thought and physical action (idea and image) that the element of chaos enters. Rolwing uses these “accidents” to investigate new meanings and possibilities in his compositions and process. He fills sketchbooks full of biographical symbolism that are mined for paintings.

Each painting is a journey and a battle. The canvas is painted, scraped, wiped out and repainted until an image begins to emerge. No painting in the studio is safe from the brush. The piece finds itself in this process, becoming both the conduit of emotion and the source of ideas. New relationships between a non-Euclidean, non-linear experience. Each of Rolwing’s paintings embodies the motion of a world turned upside down, objects float in and out of view. The head sheds ego and the base of the body for the freedom of the mind.

Rolwing makes the viewer complicit in the reading of his work. His symbols, figures and signs bring their own history to play, but read very personally in the eye of the beholder.

Rolwing’s work ultimately taps into a place between ones intellect and accidental process, where meaning is found.