When Manuela Luchtmeijer and her husband decided to adopt a child, the long process of paperwork and waiting began. And so too began her response as an artist to the emotional, raw energy produced by waiting and wanting to know if they would be approved to be parents. She couldn't sleep, so she painted. And when their bab(ies) arrived, she conceived of a series to commemorate this time.
Sixteen out of the twenty-six canvasses in the show that closed here last night are black, and indeed, the name of the show is "The Colors of Black." Out of Manuela's insomnia came a body of work that plays with that "color," "the perfect absorber of light," symbol of darkness and depression that goes deep into it and comes out a triumphant play of movement and a meditation of texture.
Some of the black canvasses have blue in them. Indigo adds hope and the swirling strokes in one tryptich called "Insomnia" recall a view of the earth from space. And some of paintings, even though they read "black" have a mixture of many colors and layers of oil that took months to dry, she says, and I noticed living with them here for two weeks, are ever-changing depending on the light. The built-up paint creates a "relief" - peaks and points of paint that is like a topographical map.
The second part of the show is called "Annunciation," or the announcement, in Manuela and Thomas's case the acceptance of their application to adopt a child. In English, a euphenism for pregnancy is "expecting a baby." In French, "attendre un enfant," means literally, "waiting for a baby." Their waiting was rewarded when they learned that they were to be the parents of twins!
And so they travelled to meet their new babies and bring them home to Paris. Manuela jokes that even though her insomnia theoretically ended, she had to be awake nights with the twins and so she still was sleep-deprived. But very grateful.
The third part of the show is named "Madonna," and differs from the rest of the show in that they are figurative and done in acrylic. To express the last part of the series and the feelings that were so overwhelming, she felt the need to work more quickly and moved away from abstraction to a more impulsive way to depict her new reality.
Pictured: "l'Immaculée Conception," a tour de force of red, black and depth and a sly take on what adoption is. This conception was immaculate, there was no original sin involved, nothing but pure motives here and this purity shone through in Manuela's face when she told me her story when I visited her atelier three Fridays ago.
The twins, a boy and a girl, are almost three years old now. They speak French and Dutch and came with their French grandmother to the vernissage, recognized their mother's paintings and enjoyed the attention they got from the crowd. They won't understand til they grow up that unborn they were the muse of their mother's best work to date.
"l'Annunciation," 120 cm. x 150 cm., oil on canvas. Price on request.