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Artist Uses Foil As Her Medium

June 9, 1998

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) _ After a half-century pause to raise children and work for her husband, Betts Wolk revived her art career. Now, at 95, she is creating pictures with a new medium: foil candy wrappers.

She isn’t sure she invented the idea, but she doesn’t know anyone else who tried it first.

``What I love about it is that most people have paintings in their homes that they don’t see anymore. You know, it’s on the wall and they take it for granted,″ Mrs. Wolk said in an interview.

``But the foil paintings _ it’s like having more than one painting. The light comes in on different areas all day long. It’s like seeing a new painting, and it keeps me intrigued.″

The glint of the afternoon sun on a foil painting in the living room of her apartment near Washington bore out her point. Though it looked something like a flower, it was an abstract work designed, she said, to look different to different people.

She folds some of the foil wrappers while smoothing others and affixing them to a backing. She paints over some parts, but leaves the original bright color on others.

Born Betty Trassner on Nov. 3, 1902, in the part of Manhattan now called SoHo, she studied at the Art Students League, where Norman Rockwell and Georgia O’Keeffe also spent time.

In her early years, she also designed fashions. In 1924, one employer sent her to Paris to copy designs from fashion shows on the sly. She would sketch a buttonhole or a collar at the show, when no one was looking, then finish the drawing in her hotel room.

At 24, she married Paul A. Wolk after altering her first name at his request. Soon after, she gave up art to work in her husband’s furniture shop and to raise their two children. Her daughter, Joan Roshco, is also a painter, while son C. Peter Wolk is a theoretical biophysicist at Michigan State University.

Mrs. Wolk didn’t paint again until 1983, when she won first prize in a contest in Longboat Key, Fla., where she spends each winter. Her husband died a decade ago.

Ms. Roshco helped her mother land her first one-woman show last month at a suburban Washington gallery by encouraging teacher Walter Bartman to look at her work.

``I wasn’t schlepping a lot of paintings around,″ Mrs. Wolk said, glancing at the walker she uses to get around. So Bartman came to her apartment, liked what he saw, and took about 40 of her works to exhibit.

He sold a half-dozen works for up to $700 apiece.

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