You might have met Veronica O’Keefe Ruoff at the Mountain Brauhaus, the so-popular restaurant owned by the Ruoff and Casey families. But visiting the artist and new mom is to discover a serious multi-dimensional talent.
Veronica grew up in Rosendale and early on was captivated by visual imagery. At Pratt Institute she studied photography, but took time off to travel in Europe and Hawaii. Upon returning to SUNY New Paltz, she received a BA in philosophy and a BFA in printmaking with a minor in Asian studies. Honored with a Critical Language Enhancement award she studied Mandarin as a prelude to a Fulbright to China in 2009-2010. During this time she produced the documentary “The Overnight,” about shift workers in Ulster County; spent her Fulbright year in nine major farm regions of China documenting the collision of ancient farming methods with agri-industrial farming methods; and produced a photo essay chronicling a full year in the agrarian cycle that pays homage to “the hardest working, most indispensable and disturbingly undercompensated people on our planet—farmers.” After a seven month hiatus working at the Brauhaus, she went on to Hunter College for her MFA in photography.
Her house is an eclectic and provocative collection of idiosyncratic projects and handmade objects. In one corner is a preserved raccoon, hit by her car and then incorporated into an exploration and reaction to the human quandary and condition—the fine line between nature and human nature. Through her art she has discovered a coping mechanism for dealing with the fragility of lives.
In another corner is delicate, sculptural, life-sized clothing crafted from kozo, a prized Japanese fiber that she turns into translucent paper. Home papermaking is no small feat. She soaks and then beats the kozo with an ancient baseball bat. One of her paper gowns is installed at St. Paul the Apostle on Columbus Avenue and 60th Street in Manhattan in a recently opened exhibit.
O’Keefe is a master at creating functional objects out of non-functional materials, forcing the viewer to “see how art becomes.” Her processes attempt to make sense from nonsense. She is also adept in the restaurant world. She has worked in many capacities since the age of sixteen and was at one point general manager of The Falcon in Marlboro. As soon as her daughter Silvia Snow Ruoff is more “portable,” Veronica will occasionally leave her newly-built studio and rejoin the Brauhaus family. In the winter she will passionately pursue cross country skiing with her husband Mark Ruaoff, an ex-national team biathlete, who established the Shawangunk Nordic Ski Association to promote this activity in our region.
You can find out more about this accomplished artist at www.veronicao’keefe.com.