The Rural We: Ruth Jaffe
A psychoanalyst in New York City until two-and-a-half years ago, Ruth Jaffe and her husband now live full time in Washington Depot, Connecticut. While she does see some clients in Litchfield County on a part-time basis, you’re more apt to see her volunteering her time teaching Spanish (she’s originally from Argentina) and refining her own method of painting using wine as her medium. Never having painted before arriving in the area, she developed her skills through classes at the Washington Art Association. “Painting was my therapy when I started,” she says.
We were weekenders in Bridgewater in the mid ‘70s. I was teaching full time and doing research — my first career was in neuroscience — but I decided to do more one-on-one clinical work. I got a postdoctoral degree in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. My husband (who’s a neurologist) and I shared an office on the Upper East Side for almost 40 years.
Wine plus watercolor painting by Ruth Jaffe.
We sold our house in Bridgewater about 15 years ago, when we downsized, and ended up in Washington Depot. We were coming up more often and wanted a less rigid schedule. That’s when I started to paint. I signed up for a landscape plein air course in 1999 at the Washington Art Association, an active art gallery and school. I chose watercolor. That’s what started to turn our life around because the classes were on Friday, so we had to be here on Thursday, no matter how late. We used to scoot up here so we’d be here for a 9 a.m. class (my husband took a sculpture course). We became very happy art students. The class offered me the opportunity to show my work, and I began to dare show what I was doing.
Ten years ago, we started going to California — Santa Barbara — in the winter. The Santa Barbara Valley has vineyards, which we visited, and I thought I’d see how wine looks on paper. It was surprisingly wonderful. I decided to develop a technique and experimented a lot, being a researcher from way back. I boiled down small quantities of wine to concentrate the pigment. I had little bottles of chardonnay, merlot, malbec, etc., and kept track of where the wines were from. A quarter of a glass would be enough to boil down to do a few washes on paper. Using wine, the final color becomes initially unpredictable, that itself becoming part of my experiment. My work is impressionistic rather than representational, inspired by what I see but driven by my personal reaction to it. I have shown some of my work at the local library and was invited to show at Blue Mountain Gallery in Chelsea.
Washington Depot is a very special little town. The best part of the landscape class was the group; some have become lifelong good friends.