Frida Exhibit at the National Museum for Women in the Arts

Frida and Diego

So completely packed house when I got to Frida exhibit Sunday last. The photographs were nice but mostly all about Frida, I expected to see more intimate scenes of her family and friends. Only a couple of rooms, so a relatively small exhibit with all the hype. The personal letters I just skimmed because of the crowd. It would be nice to see them collected together in a book someday soon. Interesting to me was a second room filled with black and white photographs by Graciela Iturbide. They were all of Frida’s bathroom, which had been locked up after her death and filled with personal effects that was then opened just recently. It reminds me a bit of what I am trying to do with my writers project, tentatively titled, Writ on the Land, in that she seeks to capture the spirit of a person through the objects left behind, and from the sense of place that defined them and that they carried with them wherever they travelled. But it left me a bit cold. In an accompanying video, they showed Iturbide arranging dead birds in a tableau for a photograph, and I just kept wondering, where did she get those birds? These weren’t stuffed, they look like their necks had been broken (pure speculation on my part), and I just did not understand.

But this work did re-spark my interest in Frida and i netflixed a PBS documentary about her narrated by Rita Moreno. It was terrific, really interesting and so much better than Fur, which was my last attempt at photographer -bio-video. (spare yourselves – i’m thinking about suing the production company and nicole kidman for the two wasted hours of my life i will never be able to get back). But back to the positive, this woman had spirit and intention! She was described by one friend as a woman so infirm that she had to find the beauty within herself and bring it out. This was her task.

It’s incredible to think that this woman was virtually ignored in her, albeit short, lifetime. But Frida painted without ambition. She had no interest in imitating the work of her husband, to create epic revisionist paintings of Mexican history, she painted for herself, about herself, her reality. I find that so admirable, and really what I tell people all the time, Shoot for yourself! She had no time for theory or semantics, just practice and living. Andre Breton loved her work and wanted to claim her as a surrealist but she would have nothing to do with it. She said she didn’t paint surrealism but her living reality. Nothing surreal to it. She had this to say about her time in Paris waiting for an ill-organized show by Breton to come together:

“I’d rather sit on the floor in the market of San Tortillas (sic) than have anything to do with these artistic bitches of Paris. They sit for hours in the cafes warming their precious behinds and talk without stopping about culture, art, revolution, and so on and so forth. The next morning they have nothing to eat because none of them work.”

There is, of course, always the problem of sustenance.

So exhibit I give a 3 out 5. But what I got in the aftermath of the exhibit, a rousing 5 out of 5. Frida continues to inspire!

One last note, her last painting before she died was a still life of a cut watermelon with Viva la Vida! inscribed upon it (Long live life!). Diego Rivera’s last work was also a still life of cut watermelons. He died three years after her.

Viva YOUR vida.


One thought on “Frida Exhibit at the National Museum for Women in the Arts

  1. Susana, definitely kindred spirits. I saw the movie “Frida” (with Salma Hayek) when it came out a few years ago, and I became obsessed with Kahlo. I went through this whole phase where I was reading everything about her I could get my hands on and talking about her nonstop. (Think Alec Soth on Tod Papageorge this week.) Her journal continues to inspire me. She was so completely herself, no apologies, fearless and yet vulnerable all at the same time. And then there’s her art, which I love almost as much as I admire Kahlo herself. You’ve made me want to reread her journal and get that documentary from Netflix. Good stuff.


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