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See you in 2011!!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Painting a Life – Frida Lives On

I just got back from a trip to the west coast to do some research. While there, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit museums and see some fantastic art. One highlight was an overnight in San Francisco during one of the nicest times of the year—the city was sparkling! I went first to see the Museum of Modern Art’s Frida Kahlo exhibit, organized by Kahlo biographer and art historian Hayden Herrera.

Frida has become a cult figure, a symbol of intimate personal expression in the arts. But during her lifetime, she was known mainly as the eccentric wife of the famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. She was known to “dabble” in painting, to dress in traditional Tehuana clothing, and to have suffered a dreadful accident early in life that eventually resulted in her early death at age 47. It is only in the last twenty-some years that her paintings began to develop a following and she and her life came into the spotlight. On the coat tails of the Herrera biography in 1983 (since reprinted numerous times), came more books, more research, about her art, her life, and her audacious lifestyle. A few years ago, Selma Hayek made a wildly popular movie about her. And, once again, with this exhibition of about fifty of her paintings plus many photographs with Diego, family, and friends, her fan base swells.

The MOMA exhibition is a celebration of the 100th anniversary of her birth in 1907 and it’s the last stop for this amazing collection of paintings and photographs. There is still time to catch it as it will be there until September 28th. I spent hours absorbing the breadth and quality of Frida’s work—many of the paintings have not previously been available for public view—and carefully examining each photograph. Many times, what we see in articles about Frida are her less-refined depictions of her physical trials and her marital troubles. What is apparent in this exhibition is how technically skilled she was, as evidenced in her beautifully and exotically rendered paintings. For me, it was a thrill I’ll not soon forget!

--Rosemary Carstens

11 comments:

ClaireWalter said...

An interesting footnote to the Frida story is that she appeared on a US postage stamp in 2001 -- and while I'm no philatelic authority, I think it is unusual for a non-US citizen to be featured our stamps. Artworks by non-Americans in American museums, indeed -- but non-citizens. rare indeed. To refresh your memory about how the stamp looked and to read more about it, go to http://www.usps.com/news/2001/philatelic/sr01_048.htm

The exhibit at the SFMOMA was organized the Walker Art Gallery in Minneapolis in cooperation with the Phildelphia Art Museum. It was hung only at those three museums, so you were fortunate indeed to have seen it. I sure wish that the Denver Art Museum had been on its itinerary too.

Anonymous said...

I was in the MOMA a couple of years ago with my family. I was the only one who even came close to "getting" it. Sometimes it is difficult to crawl inside the minds of some of the artists. Even my art school son couldn't relate to much of it. I find it fun to let my mind work on the rather abstract examples of emotional expression. Thanks for giving us this small taste of the museum and the Frida exhibit. What a fascinating character! Karen Lin

Jerrie said...

I'll be in LA this month, but alas, not SF. I'm sorry to miss this. Thanks for telling us about it.

Andrea said...

What a treat to see this exhibition in person!

Alyce Barry said...

I'd love to see an exhibit of Kahlo's work, she's such an enigma and her work is so evocative. With the number of Hispanics in Colorado, do you suppose there's a chance of an exhibit coming to Denver's DAM?

Anne said...

Sounds like a one of those awe inspiring museum visits that transform. How wonderful!

Shari Phiel said...

I have long been fascinated by how Kahlo not only captured her physical and emotional pain in a unique way, but then transformed that pain into work that is beautiful and sometimes grotesque at the same time. When I was in college in my early 20s and was taking art history, I really didn't get her work. Fifteen years later, I found my own life experiences gave me an appreciation of her work I hadn't had before. Thanks for sharing your experience - how wonderful to have attended this exhibit.

sibylle said...

How long will the exhibit go for? I'd like to stop in when I go to the Bay Area in October.

Laurel Kallenbach said...

Oooh, I wish I could catch this exhibition!

I remember when I first heard of Frida Kahlo: in an undergraduate class on women's literature during the early 1980s. I was transfixed by the slides the prof showed, and even more excited about the autobiographical tone of her painting. Women have been the "subject" of art for millennia, but here Frida was creating using her own life as symbolic art.

Suzanne and Jerry Hall said...

For those who cannot make the exhibit, the MOMA website has a wonderful slide show worth viewing of Freda's work. The slide show was a little slow running on my computer, but worth the time.

Suzanne Hall, Grass Valley, CA

Suzanne and Jerry Hall said...

Whoops - slide show link is:

http://www.sfmoma.org/media/features/kahlo/index.html