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The Dart: Artist, wife keep busy in Natchez

NATCHEZ — One of Natchez’s most famous Katrina transplants was catching some northern sunlight in his art studio Saturday when The Dart interrupted his work schedule by landing at his house.

When The Dart landed near the corner of Washington Street and St. Charles Avenue, Stella Golden was working in her garden while her husband, Rolland, adhered to his work schedule inside.

Rolland, a nationally-recognized artist, moved with Stella to Natchez in March 2006, shortly after their home in Folsom, La., was damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Rolland said he and Stella had visited Natchez since the 1960s, and the couple and their three children often visited as a family, but the decision to move to the river town came on a whim.

“We were (in Natchez) for a book signing, and I said, ‘Why don’t we move to Natchez?’” Stella said.

The choice was also sort of a compromise.

Rolland wanted to move to a small town in Virginia, but Stella adamantly refused.

When Stella proposed the idea the day of the book signing, it was an option where they found common ground.

They did not get the house they bided on that day, but they kept in contact with a real estate agent.

“We knew we wanted an old house,” Stella said.

Rolland said the house they live in reminds him of his childhood home.

“I grew up in a half of a shotgun in the French Quarter,” Rolland said.

So their house with its big porch and its gingerbread molding felt like home.

They renovated to make room for Rolland’s studio and offices, and now spent most of their time in Natchez, although they still have their house in Folsom.

Golden said he has been able to work as a professional artist for 53 years, in large part because of his wife.

When Rolland began working in his first gallery, Stella learned to master the people skills necessary to make her husband’s talent into a profession.

“She’s my complete business manager, I don’t even know much money I have,” he laughed.

Rolland, 79, and Stella, 73, have been married for 53 years. They met when Stella was 16 years old and Rolland was 21 years old when they lived across the street near New Orleans.

“She’s a whirlwind,” he said.

Stella said they would both like to start spending more time in the community and making new friends, but Rolland has been busy lately.

“You make my schedule,” Rolland said to his wife.

Rolland said painting is often inspiring, but there are inevitably times when he must depend on his discipline and professionalism to finish a piece.

“Painting is like losing weight, nobody can do it for you,” Rolland said.

He said many envision the life of an artist as glamorous an indulgent. But Rolland’s strict schedule and even his studio supplies reflected a normal family life.

Scattered on a table near his easel were old containers of Brummel and Brown butter spread, Folgers Coffee and low-fat strawberry yogurt, all filled with paint and paintbrushes.

“People have an idea that an artist is lazy, paints when he feels like it, drinks wine and paints naked ladies and goes to get with them, but I never got any of that,” he said.

Stella admitted she hated the idea of Rolland painting nude models, like he did years ago with the other artist in his gallery.

Stella keeps Rolland focused on work and has also given him a lifetime of companionship.

While Rolland’s name may be more well known, Rolland gets starry-eyed talking about his wife, even when discussing her skills in one of their favorite hobbies, fishing.

“This woman will catch her fish, gut them, scale them and cook them,” he said. “She’s tough.”

“I picked a good one to go through life together.” Rolland said.

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