Aruba Marine Life by Luisa Elena Betancourt, at the Library

Biblioteca Nacional invites you to view the paintings of a multidisciplinary artist born in Caracas, Venezuela, focusing on our colorful marine life.

In a recent gathering at the library, the artist reported that for the past five years she has been taking underwater photographs, at Boca Catalina and Mangel Halto. “I am not a trained photographer,” she says,” I am an artist, a colorist painter, but, as a sailor, I did know how to handle waves and winds. After fighting them with a small camera bouncing around my neck, I made this book as a gift to Aruba, its people and visitors.”

Library director Astrid Britten was pleased to open an exhibition almost two years to the day, since the onset of the pandemic and the inactivity that followed.

The 280-page glossy book of photographs, was curated from among 16.000 existing shots, and while I enjoyed the spectacular acrylic on cotton canvas paintings based on the photographs, I had my reservations about the picture-book by an artist who by admission, is not photographer, taking pictures with a small bouncing camera.

But as it turned out, she did us a big favor.

Let me explain. The photographs were taken in the shallows, snorkeling, and the book shows much evidence of bleached and broken coral, as fish are photographed against white sand or dead coral. Some fish, turtles and fossil coral look spectacular, by nature, but their photographs are not.

I agree with Luisa Elena Betancourt that if anything this book should serve as a warning to us, to double and triple our preservation efforts to save our marine life from the punishment of extensive human traffic.

The book has a charming part at the end where the author features some personal pictures with her sons and grandson, all avid snorkelers.

Elvis Lopez, curator, Ateliers 89, asked me to add that he has been swimming in Malmok every morning for the past decades, and that while some fish remain, the underwater landscape is badly damaged.

At the presentation in the library, Betancourt gave us a detailed description of her previous expositions, both dedicated to her husbands. The first show featured items of her much-adored late husband, and the second one featured aspects of her much-adored second husband. While I would have liked to see these shows, they sounded intriguing, they had little to do with the reason why we were congregated at the library.

Anyway, I bought the book. I love the cover most. It is a painting.

Coral and fish might be gone, but paintings endure.

Our own Clyde Harms provided the opening remarks at the gathering and in the book.


Luisa Elena Betancourt was honored with the Fulbright Scholarship (1990) and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Washington State University (1992). She lives in Aruba since 2015


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March 17, 2022
Rona Coster