Category : Articles

Ed Jaffe Carves his Niche into Torrington

Artist, Creative Problem Solver, Innovator- Ed Jaffe Carves his niche into Torrington
Reprinted from Let’s Talk: Artists. Summer 2015 By Susan Read

Jaffe moved to Torrington last year in order to be a part of the obvious arts revival occurring here. Just off Torrington’s Highland Ave, Jaffe’s newly renovated and re-purposed studio holds all the magic of his prolific and successful career. Jaffe is an old school artist who recognized Torrington as a city reconceived in the mind of the 21st century artist. Like Great Barrington, Massachusetts and Portland, Oregon, Torrington struck Jaffe immediately as a community primed for fostering his particular artistic interests.

Jaffe would love it if you came to see his painting
 and sculpture studio. Though the studio is right in the city, you sense bucolic tranquility when you arrive. Stone, wax, and wood sculptures dominate the space; however, he also has a few more recent works to view. The novice, as well as the connoisseur, of art will immediately see why Jaffe has earned so many accolades from the art world, is considered a successful artist, and sells well. His current 3D paintings maintain the earlier, indigenous influences of his stone work; however, his complex process fashions angles and planes that create an intrinsic geometry. Within this geometry, his paintings maintain distinct humanity. As I moved around the rooms of his studio, the paintings changed form because the angles of light shifted. Jaffe has not abandoned the sculpture of his early work: he’s reinvented it in abstract, angular paintings.

If you would like to see Jaffe’s studio, give him a call at (914) 715-2055. He’d be delighted to show you his work, but he is not someone you want to “drop—in on. “

Jaffe feels his eighty—six years enough to note that the ninety pound sculpture, “weighs more than it used to,” with a grin. For a sneak peak, visit his website at edjaffe.com. Jaffe’s photo studio includes breathtaking sculpture as well as the contemporary paintings. Though, by his own admission, his studio is “a little inconvenient and by appointment” his community spirit and contributions, like his art, are innovative and experimental.

When Jaffe decided to move to Torrington, the city had no idea what a mover and shaker he would be. Those who hang around city hall have no notion of his talent as an artist because they know him as a powerful advocate for positive, creative innovation in our zoning laws. His verbal skills and keen mind are so advanced that it’s hard to resist his persuasive tongue. It’s a good thing, too, because WOW! Ed Jaffe has great ideas for the future prosperity of our fair city. The way Jaffe’s mind works and his vision of the future are only surpassed by his recent push to bring his vision to fruition in Torrington.

For centuries, artists have moved to small, affordable places with inexpensive rentals, preferably warehouses—large open areas with room to produce. “Artists need space.” Word spreads among artists about good places to live with affordable large spaces, and they begin to cluster there. We can see the outcome of their decisions by recalling Greenwich Village fifty years ago when it was full of “starving artists.”

The pattern of organic revitalization has repeated itself through the ages because artist colonies increase property values. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens.

Ed Jaffe understands this dynamic and he envisions Torrington full of musicians, writers, poets, painters, sculptors, dancers, weavers, and potters. In order for Torrington to be the kind of city that artists will move to, we needed friendly zoning, so Ed Jaffe came up with a plan and the city adopted it—the Arts Blanket.

Visualize our city separated into its various zones, then spread a huge blanket over everything: that’s the Arts Blanket. The Arts Blanket means that an artist can find a place where he or she plans to live and work anywhere in the city. From start to finish, buying a property, and applying for the Arts Blanket takes about the same amount of time as buying any other property. For more information about the Arts Blanket, contact Torrington’s City Planner Marty Connor or go to the website www.artistrelocation.com.

Ed Jaffe’s efforts to help artists have helped elevate our own vision of Torrington. Thanks to Jaffe and City Planner Marty Connor, Torrington is now positioned to take back its precedence as the premiere city—the anchor community—in Litchfield County. On Jaffe’s Facebook page, he writes, “The Planning and Zoning commission has made Torrington a very friendly community for the working artist.*It is now possible for you to purchase a private home or a commercial property anywhere in the city and adapt it into a live/work facility. The program is just getting started so you could come in on the ground floor. Right place. Right time. Right price.”

With this kind of cachet, it’s no wonder that Judy McElhone, Director of Five Points Gallery, said of Jaffe, “It is a great testimony that someone like Ed Jaffe decided to settle in our city.”

To see some of Jaffe’s sculptures, go to his Website www.edjaffe.com or give him a give him a call at (914) 715-2055 to arrange a visit to his studio.


Burgeoning arts scene

Burgeoning arts scene Veteran artist sees future in Torrington’s arts community
By Alec Johnson Republican-American 
Photos byBob Falcetti Republican-AmericanTorrington, CT

Artist Ed Jaffe, most recently from Virginia, almost didn’t move here. He turned his back on the circa 1900 farmhouse along Highland Avenue four years ago, didn’t think twice about a city he found stagnant, stuck romanticizing its factory-town past, drifting toward a seemingly inevitable decline. “It looked like it was dying,” he said.

He’s changed his mind.

Jaffe, a photographer, painter and sculptor with artwork in homes and galleries nationwide, in a few short months has transformed both that farmhouse and his opinion. The renovated house, with wide-plank floors and a barn that once served as a milkhouse, resembles a gallery with its living space almost a begrudging afterthought. And Jaffe is sold on Torrington and those who push for it to be known as an arts community.

“When I first started looking at this place, I thought, ‘This is a town that has been hurt bad and there is nothing going on here,'” said Jaffe. “I saw no future for it.”

“Now there are several artists in the area and it is moving foward with a very positive cultural aspect,” said Jaffe, 85. “There is more culture in this community than there is all along Route 44.”

Jaffe, who spent 20 years in Virginia, wanted to return to New England. He spent his early life in Maine, and his middle aged years in Vermont.

After his initial dismissal of Torrington, he considered homes in Great Barrington, Mass., and in New Hartford and Canton. He lost bids on three homes and was unhappy with the higher prices there, unable to find a place to suit his art and living needs.

Then, he started to hear murmurs about Torrington. He started some research. Five Points Gallery — now its own business after starting as an experimental summer project two years ago by the Torrington Arts & Culture Commission — has helped change the culture downtown, Jaffe said.

“There is a revolution going on in terms of the creative environment,” he said. “I thought I’d might as well become a part of it.” Jaffe returned last year to find the farmhouse on Highland Avenue still on the market, for a lower price.
Downtown, where he had seen an empty storefront at the corner of Main and Water, he found Five Points Gallery.
In City Hall, Jaffe found Mayor Elinor C. Carbone, willing to answer his questions. She sold him on Torrington, he said.

“She was so enthusiastic about the town and where it has been going,” Jaffe said, describing the mayor’s local arts history lesson, covering the Warner Theatre, Nutmeg Ballet, and a more recent trendy and artsy crowd that encourages experimental theaters, studios, open-mike performances and chummy art workshops in downtown shops.

Carbone said she agrees with Jaffe that Five Points has been a tremendous boon to the arts. “Some very accomplished artists are now paying attention to what is going on in Torrington and are investing in Torrington,” the mayor said.

She cited Gerald Incandela on Center Street, an artist who lives in Washington, Conn., but is building a studio in the former Libby’s Furniture storage building.

Incandela, unhappy with the condition of the neighboring property, bought it and fixed it up, the mayor said. When the nearby Sons of Italy Lodge became available through a tax sale, he bought it because they were good neighbors.

“That is the sort of momentum that grows,” Carbone said. “I am always grateful when an artist looks at the city of Torrington and recognizes potential. They serve as a vehicle of change.”

The goal is not just to further the arts, supporters of the concept say. It is to further the arts while filling empty storefronts and creating activities that draw visitors, and the coveted foot traffic they bring.

Judith McElhone, executive director of Five Points Gallery, said that since the gallery opened she has seen more interest in the arts downtown.

“It is a great testimony that someone like Ed Jaffe decided to settle in our city,” she said. “We have had so much interest from artists who are asking about artist studio spaces.”

Jaffe works across mediums: Italian marble to mahogany sculptures to abstract oil paintings with cubist influences and now three dimensional paintings that pop from the canvas in sharp angles, drawing your eye. He wants to re-establish himself with galleries and continue to sell artwork he will create here.

He bought the house in May. Part of the barn, framed with hand hewn beams, has been transformed into his studio. When he finishes unpacking, he will begin painting.

More than 30 of his paintings and 15 sculptures adorn walls and tables throughout the house, including the kitchen.

“I am beginning my fifth 20-year cycle,” said Jaffe, whose hands are swollen from four decades of sculpting stone. His goatee and hair are white and his voice a hushed gravel with light tones of the South.

In breaking down his life in 20 year chunks, Jaffe, who says he is 85 going on 40, describes his life this way: Two decades growing up. Then 22 years in Manhattan as an advertising photographer, shooting for booming Madison Avenue agencies. That lasted until a shoot for Arnold Bread led him to Vermont, where he was hired to photograph sunrises and sunsets.

A single photo, one foggy morning, of a man on a bicycle, his body silhouetted by the rising sun and surrounded by a morning mist, led him to Vermont. Jaffe spent the next 20 years in Vermon,t where he photographed for outdoor gear company Orvis about 40 days a year and sculpted the rest of the time, selling his art through a network of galleries in California, Georgia and Florida.

Gradually his income source switched from his Orvis photography to his sculptures. An avid cross country skier, he would leave from his back door daily and not return until nightfall — until his knees gave out, prompting the move to Virginia for a slower pace, where he returned to painting, a medium he dabbled with in 1957 and 1958.

“You don’t spend six months a year in winter if you don’t ski,” he said. “I just headed south and found a place that worked for me and dropped anchor. I started all over again. Nobody knew who I was.”

Jaffe established himself in Orange, Va., a 3-square-mile town of 4,200 halfway between Charlottesville and Frederiksberg, in a 15,000-square-foot downtown building. He created a home, gallery and art studio. His name hung in black letters on the white brick facade.

But, “I shake the trees every 20 years, not on purpose, it just works that way for me,” he said.

Jaffe said he plans to establish himself in Torrington, to join the community while continuing to paint. He said he plans to spend the rest of his life here.

“The more artists we can get into the community, I think the more that is going to feed on itself and that might be where I can contribute.”

Fresh Inspiration: Marble Sculpture & Paintings by Ed Jaffe

newspaperThis article appeared in The Fredricksburg, Virginia:Freelance-Star  under the byline of Judith Jones.  Photography by Robert Martin

IN THE AFTERNOON  LIGHT of his studio, Ed Jaffe paints a girl he saw years ago. He was strolling along an Ecuadorian when he  spied her. Now the work is newly drawn and still colorless. Jaffe dabs white across the girl’s shoulders.

Screwing the lid back on a paint jar, he puts his brushes aside and changes into an old shirt. He passes through a hallway into another studio, this one with tall white walls and a floor coated with marble dust

He eyes his nemesis of three months, a chunk of green Vermont marble. It’s the hardest stone he’s ever carved, he says, pulling a protective shield over his face as he picks up a diamond coated cutting tool.

Ed Jaffe of Orange County is a versatile artist who has collectors across the country.

The painting of the Ecuadorian girl and the marble sculpture will complete a body of work that has consumed Jaffe for decades, but as one artistic period ends, the vigorous 71-year-old gears up for a trip and a dose of fresh inspiration. Next week, he leaves for a 10-day tour of Spain and Portugal, to visit the lands of the brigands and explorers of the late 15th century known as the Conquistadors.

This isn’t the first time Jaffe has looked to the past for content in his art. He’s hiked through Mayan and Incan ruins in South and Central America during the past 30 years or so.

Jaffe prepares for his trip–and runs his studio–from a gray-toned office behind the art showroom. Airline tickets and Spanish-language tapes are pushed aside as he settles in to talk dreamily about his travels but he grows impatient with a reporter’s questions about his photography career in the competitive New York advertising world of the 1960s and ’70s,  and his later emergence as a sculptor and painter.

“That’s an old story,” he says. “This is about now.”

Jaffe draws, paints and sculpts–often, all in the same day. His work is abstract, but his paintings reveal the observant eye of the professional photographer he was for 22 years.

A native New Englander, he worked for major advertisers such as AT&T, IBM and Smith & Wesson and maintained a studio in Manhattan. A 1970 photo shoot in Vermont was the beginning of the end of that lucrative career. “I fell in love with the place and bought a piece of land,” he says.

Then he began to sculpt full time.

First it was in exotic hardwoods. (Jaffe didn’t switch to stone until the hardwoods were no longer available) He collected bits of broken shells and brought them home for subject matter. “I would place a shell fragment under a sharp light and draw the highlights and shadows, not the shell,” he says. Based on the drawing, he then made a sculpture that was abstract, but still aquatic-looking.

He was deeply immersed in sculpture, but “the camera still paid the bills,” he says. “I’d done everything with a camera I could, in the toughest  market in the world.” As Jaffe moved from picture-maker to stone-carver–and later on, painter–the central concept of his work began to take shape

“I like cultures that are not my own,”

Jaffe heads to the hills and ocean fringes on his expeditions. In Ixtapa, Mexico, in the mid-1960s, he collected perfect shells for tourist ladies staying in his hotel and kept the broken shards for himself. In Guatemala in the mid-1980s, skirmishes in the mountains forced him back down to a village, and ultimately home. The same was true in Ecuador in the mid-1990s, when his sojourn was cut off by an attack by Peruvian forces two days into the trip.

He relies on research and travel to absorb the history that infuses his art and he relies on people who now inhabit these ancient lands for a lush sense of place. “I’m a Latin at heart, I guess,” he says .

His forays fed his sculpting talent and later his painting. The paintings have rich earth colors with geometric patterns that lie like lace over female subjects. He carries the Latin-culture themes and feel into sculpting Portuguese and Italian marble.

Collectors say his art is recognizable throughout the phases of his  career.

I have one called ‘The Warrior,'” says Augie Brown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who has known Jaffe for almost 40 years  “It’s a rugged face. There’s a strength to his sculpture.” Brown worked on photo shoots with Jaffe in New York in the 1960s and was one of the first male models in Eileen Ford’s agency. He has collected more than a dozen of Jaffe’s sculptures over the years. “I bought one of his first sculptures. It was leaning against  his fireplace,” Brown says. He thought he had no talent.”

Jaffe says he got serious about painting 10 years ago, partially to indulge his love of drawing and form and he paints with a vengeance, starting with a tempered masonite board that gets rough treatment. “I use everything–scrapers, razors,” he says. An idea simmers for a while before Jaffe begins working. “When I paint, I have to think about what I’m doing,” he says. “It’s very intellectual. You have your arguments with it. You run into walls and you’ve got to get to a solution.”

Sculpting stone requires even more forethought but, “I do all of my thinking before I start”, he says. “never while I’m working. The stone is emotional and intuitive.”. When he fires up the pneumatic tools and drills, Jaffe is in his own world, perhaps an entire continent away.

Jaffe prepares for final Virginia art exhibit

Drew Jackson May 13, 2011 Orange County Review

When 82-year-old artist Ed Jaffe stands up from a chair, he does so slowly and with a pronounced grimace, but it would be reasonable to assume the act is merely for show — a performance so as not to confuse a younger person’s expectations of an old man. Jaffe is and is not a lot of things.

He is a sculptor, but sits in an office surrounded by new paintings; he is a resident of Orange in that he lives within its town limits; and he is that expected old man only in that his stories are better than most and he is all too willing to tell them.

One of the most eye-catching pieces in Jaffe’s main street gallery in Orange is the large sign announcing the building’s for sale. For years the artist has been trying to sell his gallery and studio and make his return to his native North.

“That’s the reason I’m leaving,” said Jaffe, as he nods towards a wall in his studio covered with faces of smiling grandchildren. “The older you get, the closer you want to be to family.”

A stronger real estate market likely would have ushered Jaffe out of the area much earlier, but as he waited and waited for his building to sell, pieces of his work began accumulating around him, eventually convincing him to hold one last scheduled show in Virginia.

“As I waited for my building to sell, I continued to work on pieces for a show for when I got up North,” said Jaffe. “But after a few contracts fell through and my paintings began to overtake my office, I thought, ‘I might as well have one here.’ ”

In his building, Jaffe’s life is neatly compartmentalized: a large, sprawling gallery of finished paintings and sculptures out front; a painting studio with floors and tables spattered with different mixes of color; a stark-white sculpting studio; and then an ordinary office with a computer and printer, but with a floor lined with finished paintings awaiting display.

It is a world separated from any other and intentionally built that way. Traffic barely can be heard outside, and the only windows are ceiling skylights, providing light by which to see, but offering a view of nothing but possibly the time and weather.|

“When you’re in here, you’re not in Orange; you’re not even in Virginia,” said Jaffe. “You’re in my space.”

Seventeen years ago, Jaffe came to that space by happenstance and stayed on a whim. His life has moved in roughly 20-year cycles, and while traveling to Winston-Salem, N.C., to look at a property, Jaffe stopped in Orange and saw the vacant building then owned by the late H.B. Sedwick.
Jaffe never made it to North Carolina on that trip.

“It was big and empty,” said Jaffe. “I spoke with H.B. Sedwick on a Tuesday and closed on the building on Thursday. I drove back to Vermont thinking, ‘Now what am I going to do with this building I just bought?’ But by the time I got back, I had it planned out. I love this building; it’s built to suit my very individual needs, but now it’s time to do something else.”

The gallery is, perhaps unintentionally, set up chronologically, both in terms of years and artistic progression. Jaffe can connect various pieces and trace them back to a particular breakthrough in his work, sculptures influencing paintings and vice versa, a constant movement toward the abstract and a continuing battle with two-dimensionality. What it all boils down to is a small phrase pinned up in Jaffe’s painting studio: “I’m not done yet.”

“With this one,” said Jaffe, pointing to the painting studio’s current work in progress, “I’m learning how to paint. I’m still figuring it out.”

In the past two years Jaffe has moved from primarily marble sculpture back to painting.
“I had these flaming red joints on my hand that hurt like hell,” he said.

Two doctors couldn’t figure out the cause of Jaffe’s pain, and it wasn’t until lunch with a vascular surgeon that he learned the possible cause.

“He asked me if I had ever worked with power tools,” said Jaffe. “I said, ‘Yes, I’ve worked with power tools for the last 40 years.’ He said that was my problem and that I just had to stop using power tools. That meant stopping working with stone. You pay the price to have this much fun.”

Jaffe’s final scheduled show in Virginia will be somewhat of a retrospective of his work, including never-before-seen pieces from as far back as 1957. Viewers won’t find many elements of Orange County in Jaffe’s work, as he said he is mostly influenced foreign and distant cultures that are not his own, but he said that Orange has been an enjoyable place to live and work.

“I enjoy small-town living,” said Jaffe. “Twenty-two years in Manhattan will kick you out of big cities.”

The show opens from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and runs until the end of June, but Jaffe said he will be around and the gallery will be open until he sells the building.

“If I’m in the gallery, it will be open,” he said. “Just ring the bell and come in.”

Drew Jackson writes for the Orange County Review.

Marble Sculpture & Paintings by Ed Jaffe

This article appeared in the Fredericksburg, Virginia Freelance –Star under the byline of Lisa Chinn. Photography by Scott Neville

Ed Jaffe’s studio of sculpted marble and textured paintings stands out like a sore thumb in Orange County.

Amid the quiet gift shops and quaint eateries in the town of Orange, Ed Jaffe’s exhibition space is a bit of a shock. Massive marble sculpture and an open, upscale atmosphere give the Main Street storefront a big-city feel–smack in the middle of a tiny Virginia town. “People walk through my door and say, ‘What the hell is this doing in Orange?'” said Jaffe.

Melding with marble

Images of another realm greet those who slip off the streets of Orange and into Jaffe’s world. Female figures and abstract forms made of marble mingle with African pots and masks. Textured paintings of Portuguese villages and Spanish alleyways hang on the walls. Jaffe’s art is inspired by his travels, including a hike through the Mayan and Incan ruins of Central and South America. “They say that an artist reflects the time in which they live, but I have always been attracted to another time, another place and a culture that is not my own,” his artist’s statement reads.

A New England native, Jaffe has carved African hardwood and Italian marble. He’s fashioned figures from fiberglass, acrylic and clay. But “I’m into stone,” Jaffe said. “I like the smell and taste of stone.” And marble–cold, hard, sensual marble–is his favorite material to carve. “Carving marble is better than going to a shrink,” he said. “When you’re really upset, you go in there and you start working on a fresh piece of stone and any frustration ends up on the floor.”

Jaffe often draws designs on paper, then uses charcoal to transfer them to the material he sculpts. He starts chiseling at the front of a stone and works “through” it, drilling away excess rock and hammering off unwanted hunks. The shavings become smaller and smaller, turning to flecks, then dust. Jaffe leaves a “road map” of the marble at each step in each piece to give viewers a sense of its journey.

As the structure takes shape, he “listens” to the marble, letting its quirks and qualities lead the way. “I never think when I’m working on stone,” he said. “I just let it happen.”

Jaffe was just 13 when he picked up a camera. Before long, he was using one to turn a profit. As a student at Syracuse University, he scared up local photography jobs. In his junior year, he left to study advertising photography at the Art Center School in Los Angeles. He bumped himself up to the big leagues in the 1950s, when he moved to Manhattan with enough money in his pockets to last six months. He stayed for 22 years, landing jobs with major companies, like duPont, Pfizer, AT&T and IBM. But it wasn’t always easy.

Ed Jaffe stands beside one of his sculptures, titled ‘Enclosed Figure No. 2, at his gallery in Orange. What was once a hobby has turned into a passion for Jaffe, a former New York photographer.

His first apartment was tiny, with a bathroom that doubled as a darkroom. He paid bills and purchased photo equipment with the money he made, then used the rest to buy groceries. “If my dad knew how many meals I skipped,” Jaffe said, “he would have killed me.”

A wood carving on the cover of a 1958 issue of “Life” magazine caught Jaffe’s eye, and changed his life. “I can do that” he said. He bought a slab of mahogany and a book, and taught himself to sculpt. He was smitten by his new hobby, invigorated by the three-dimensional quality that was sculpture..

The catalog work that began to dominate the photo industry left him less enamored with his career. Then, a 1970 photo shoot sent him to Vermont. “I had a love affair with the place.” said Jaffe, whose eyes twinkle when he speaks of the skiing he enjoyed and the state, where he bought land and built a house.

The camera still paid the bulk of the bills. But Jaffe was spending less time taking pictures, more time sculpting. His works sold from New England to Florida, from Georgia to California. But the money-driven, anything-goes attitude that emerged in the 1980s art market was more than he could take. He refused to tweak his style to meet the changing demands of the business

A knee injury that left him unable to ski-coupled with a need for change, spurred his desire to leave Vermont. That’s when he stumbled across the empty Orange County storefront. He bought it because it was there, he said, and because it was big enough to house the 15 tons of sculpture and equipment he was hauling. The 16,000-square-foot building became his studio, his exhibition space and his home.

Today, he sells his work to private collectors and to those who are willing to travel to Orange to see his sculpture and paintings. Smaller pieces sell better because they’re less expensive, easier to handle and more convenient to transport. But that doesn’t stop Jaffe from chiseling the massive works that make him happy, like the 4-foot, 1,500-pound piece he carved from Portuguese marble. “I don’t care if I never sell it,” he said about the figure–an abstract image of a man embracing a woman. “I enjoy every minute of it.”

As he nears the end of his current supply of marble, he’ll decide whether to buy more or return to sculpting other materials. One thing is for certain: Jaffe won’t be swayed by friends or foes or fortune. “Fame is always welcome”, he said. “but a really wealthy artist is an artist who can stay in the studio all day long. I’ve been doing that for a long time.”