NEW LONDON — Blue can connote joy, calm, serenity, sadness, isolation, difficulty, and heartbreak.
For its capacity to hold a range of feelings and experiences, blue is the color of choice for artist Jac Lahav in his show, “Blue Seeds: Reflections on Foster Care,” which opened at the Lyman Allyn Museum in late August.
“When we talk about blue, it’s interesting,” Lahav told CT Examiner. “You can have the blues or feel blue, so blue can have a negative connotation. But then you also have the blue sky and the blue of the ocean. And blue can be an extremely tranquil and expansive feeling as well. So here’s positivity and it’s just a range of emotions that it carries.”
Blue serves as the vehicle for Lahav to remember complex phone calls with government agencies about accepting foster children for a night, a weekend, a month or longer.
In more than 40 abstract paintings on blue velvet, Lahav documents conversations with the Department of Children and Families about the placements of foster children, while also protecting the children’s identities and the nature of their situations.
“Each one is referencing a phone call we’ve had for a foster child, so they’re sort of like documents of memory. Each one is just trying to recall or trying to make real a moment of decision,” he said.
The weft and heft of the paintings’ velvet surfaces provide a safe harbor for Lahav’s vessel-like abstract shapes that represent each child. Some are similar to the embryonic or larval shapes of unformed beings. Others invoke a portal or passageway, perhaps a doorway on that child’s journey.
Lahav said he and his partner decide whether to accept each placement.
“Each painting is a phone call whether we accepted it or not,” he said. “When we began our journey as foster-to adopt, we got a lot of phone calls for infants, and some of them were extremely challenging situations where we said we were not ready for that.”
These paintings represent the past, Lahav said, and are the first part of the show.
The second part, “Present: Meditations on Repair,” contains a large triptych of meandering blue vines laced with golden cracks, and other blue-hued pieces that represent resilience during difficult times.
“The vines are sort of like these meandering growths that are looking for a home,” Lahav said.
“There’s always a lot of complications, and that’s part of what I talk about with these vines. They’re not linear.”
He said most people’s lives do not follow expected, traditional paths.
“It’s not like when you have a career, you have a job and then you move up this ladder. Or when you have a family – you get married, and you have a kid, and the kid goes to college and moves out,” Lahav said. “The reality of most people’s stories are not linear. And especially in foster care, it’s not linear.”
The third part of the show, “Future: Growth and Healing,” is a lounge environment with huge blue vines sprouting to the ceiling, furnished with comfortable floor pillows and children’s books. The installation is intended to encourage engagement with art and creativity as a means of healing and growing the community.
Lahav said his introduction to foster care came out of fertility issues.
“We realized that we had a lot to give. And it was actually a lot easier to give than I thought,” he said. “I’m always amazed by our hearts’ capacity to grow.”
“Blue Seeds: Reflections on Foster Care” is on display through Dec. 3. For more information about foster care, call 1-888-543-4376.