Frida Hits the Century Mark

By Lisa Coleman

Whether or not you care for the art of Frida Kahlo is irrelevant. In terms of art and
artistic expression, she demands respect. I personally like some of her work, while other pieces leave me someplace between bewildered and offended. Nonetheless, she is a Mexican icon and in terms of influence and impact on the artistic world,as well as her significant imprint on feminism, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Her husband (and a favorite of mine) once said…”Frida is the only example in the history of art of an artist who tore open her chest and heart to reveal the biological truth of her feelings…a superior painter and the greatest proof of the renaissance of the art of Mexico.”
 
July 6th marks Frida’s 100th birthday. She was born in Mexico City in 1907. To commemorate this event and to celebrate her legacy, Mexico City is hosting several important events in her honor including an exhibition at Casa Azul, the house Kahlo grew up in, and a retrospective of her artwork in Mexico City.

The retrospective will be taking place in the Fine Arts Palace in Mexico City and will be the largest comprehensive exhibit of Kahlo’s work ever. The most recent international exhibition took place two years ago in London and compiled 87 pieces of her work. The Fine Arts Palace exhibition, however, will display 354 pieces of her works on loan from Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Nayoga, Japan. The exhibit, slated to open on June 13 until August 19, will have one-third of her artistic production, manuscripts and 50 letters that have not been previously displayed.

“Frida Kahlo is essential to our Mexican culture and art history,” commented Francisco Lopez Mena, CEO of the Mexico Tourism Board. “Her legacy is carried on worldwide and people from all over the world journey to Mexico to see her work and where she lived,” added Lopez Mena.

Every year thousands of visitors flock to the city to see her artwork and experience first-hand where she lived. Tia Stephanie Tours, (based out of Michigan), will be offering a special “Frida Kahlo Anniversary Tour” in Mexico City from August 10 – 17.  This special itinerary includes visits to the National Museum of Anthropology, the chinampas or Floating Gardens of Xochimilco, a day trip to Puebla and Cholula to see the majolica style Talavera tile and a performance of the Ballet Folklorico. There will also be guided tours of the great murals of Mexican artists Rivera, Orozco, and Siquieros, and dining at some of Mexico City’s top-rated restaurants and eateries.

Also during the month of August, the Casa Azul, located in the southern Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacan, and now the Frida Kahlo Museum, will be holding a special exhibit of letters from Diego and a collection of wardrobe items recently found at Casa Azul. Anthropologist and curator, Marta Turok will discuss the importance of indigenous dress in cultural diversity and heritage. For more information on the tour, please go to www.tiastephanietours.com.

In May of last year, Frida Kahlo’s Roots painting made history at a Sotheby’s auction. The painting was sold for US $5,616,000, the highest amount ever paid for a Latin American work of art at an auction. Roots, 1943, oil on metal, one of the most beautifully detailed works from Kahlo’s most celebrated period, had never before appeared on the public market.

The celebrated painter depicted the indigenous Mexican culture in her work by combining surrealism, symbolism and realism, was married to Mexican muralist painter, Diego Rivera, and was an active communist who had a torrid affair with Leon Trotsky, the Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist.

Kahlo’s unique and highly personal artistic expression was largely derived in part from a tragic bus/trolley accident she was involved in and her subsequent physical and mental pain; along with the anguish of her inability to have children. Her tumultuous marriage to Diego Rivera and her overtly bisexual gender also influenced her work.

Kahlo was also known for her extravagant display of rich and colorful indigenous clothing from regions throughout Mexico. She embraced and honored the cultural heritage of her native Mexico by wearing the regional dress from Oaxaca, such as Tehuantepec and Amusgo.

In the last three decades Kahlo has gained admiration from around the world, which resulted in the 2002 movie about her life starring Salma Hayek, which helped to ignite an even stronger interest in the life and work of the artist.

For art lovers, or anyone who wants to see the Mexican culture from the inside out,  Frida’s birthday may be a party worth attending. 

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