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Requiem for Rolf

Farewell to art's man about town.

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to earn, not to own,
to accept naturally without self importance,
if you never assume importance,
you never lose it -- Lao Tzu

Rolf Jordahl devoted his life to art as a painter, as a musician and as an art conservator. It is impossible for me to know how many lives Rolf touched as deeply and fully as he touched mine. From my earliest acquaintance with him, I knew that to be in Rolf's company at a concert, a gallery opening, a bar, a pawn shop, a bootmakers', was to be in the company of someone famous about town. He knew people everywhere and made our small town feel large and important.

Strangers sometimes compared his appearance to Andy Warhol's--a comment that made me cringe. Not because the comment necessarily intended insult, but because Rolf's work as an artist and as a human being were opposite Warhol's. Rolf was nothing if not authentic. For all his sarcastic humor, he was not ironic.

In his music and his painting, Rolf was a master craftsman and a lifelong apprentice to beauty and truth. He believed in and engendered both. He conserved beautiful works of others with reverence and made radiant original work. Above all, Rolf was honest in his work; he meant it. Music and painting were part of the spiritual journey he made daily.

For all the people he knew, Rolf did not abide superficiality. He had no use for the spotlight; he was an absolutely private person. To be his friend was to feel protected, to be held in the precious specificity of his individual focus. As his friend, you became not one of many but the one unique person who mattered profoundly to him. And he mattered that singly to you. In the sanctuary of conversation, he was the greatest listener. He inspired acute passion and loyalty.

Rolf's work embodied the intensity and integrity of his person. The tiniest details received the complete attention of his talents. He gave melody, color and composition the whole of his senses, his entire heart and his immense skill. Rolf asked the essential questions of his life and his work tirelessly. He sought the essential in all he did and all he loved. If he was famous, it was and is for the genuine respect others have for his personal and artistic integrity. Liken him to Beckett, Beefheart, Balthus, Buddha, but not Warhol.

We will miss our cherished friend, brother, son, uncle, teacher. Many will miss the comfort of his exquisite intimacy. Many in Tucson and beyond will suffer the absence of a great, exacting artist. Rolf Jordahl gave us his rare and enormous gifts with his whole heart. He lives on in ours, most sincerely.

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