I first heard about this Frida Kahlo exhibit in southern California like we gather so much of our news these days: Facebook. Someone listed the link on my page. “The world’s largest collection of Frida Kahlo’s works – never before seen together.”
Was I going to see it?
WAS I GOING TO SEE IT?
Of course I was. Fast forward several months and the exhibit is coming to a close in a matter of weeks and I still hadn’t made the time or effort to drive 300 miles west to see my favorite artist. Holidays, budgets, blah blah blah add boring adult stuff here. Enter Sue, who made a generous offer: if I was interested, I could stay at her house with her family for a weekend, and she’d buy the ticket.
WAS I INTERESTED?
I’m a bit of a Frida weirdo. It started years ago, before Salma’s movie but after I lived in Mexico. I have dressed up like my beloved favorite artist more than once, and own most books discussing her life. I have, for as long as I can remember, felt a deep tug when looking at her art. It gives me goosebumps and sometimes a sick stomach.
For Frida, it was a dark, turbulent life. Her love affair with fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera was rocky at best. (What do you say about a man who sleeps with your sister?) A trolley accident at age 18 would leave her forever in pain, and eventually lead to her death after a series of complicated, miserable surgeries. She had countless miscarriages, and in turn, countless pets who instead received her love. She loved the ancient Mexican culture, and her brute husband, and sometimes other men. And women. She was also rather fond of communism and her German father, a photographer.
Let’s just say it was complicated. Her art is a great reflection of her messy life – the joy, sorrow, pets, lovers, and physical pain. Many of her paintings are small because they were done while in bed, painted overhead.
As Sue and I entered the exhibit within a converted Navy barrack, boats bobbed within sight in the Pacific, and glasses clinked at an adjoining brewery. I took a deep breath.
For the next two hours, we wound our way through more than 200 pieces of Frida’s art, replicas of her clothing and jewelry, and pieces of furniture constructed like those of the Blue House in Coyoacan.
There was so much to see, and my senses were at full throddle. With a handful of other people, we walked from painting to painting, taking in the story that led to their creation. My two favorite paintings were in the front room, and I couldn’t hold back tears. To be in the presence of this art that I had studied only in books for more than a decade was magnificent. The colors. The patterns. The history. I stared at Frida’s portraits, one after another, feeling a link to her I cannot explain.
Thank you Sue, for making this happen. I still want to visit Detroit to see Diego’s murals, and Mexico City to visit Frida’s house too. Thanks to my friend Teresa, I am pouring over a new book about Frida’s wardrobe this week as well. And thanks to Sarah, I can even cook Frida’s favorite foods.
Que Viva la Frida!