Story by Maria Lisella,
Photos & illustrations
Denise Silva, Frida: With Wings to Fly, 2017, acrylic, paper, and gold leaf,
Photo by Nickolas Muray, Frida Kahlo Painting śThe Two Fridas”, 1939. Platinum print. Courtesy Throckmorton Fine Arts. © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives.
Left: Rupert Garcia, Frida Kahlo, 2002/1975, woodcut print, edition 9/50, 43 — 33. Courtesy of Magnolia Editions, Oakland, CA
Right: Barbara Johansen Newman, All this Madness, 2018, acrylic on wood,
The article originally run in La Voce di New York
Hudson River Museum Celebrates Frida Kahlo’s World with Bilingual Exhibitions
through the Eyes of 75 Artists
To know her is to love her, is to imitate, and possess her, just a little.
A visionary of art, culture, feminism and independence, Frida Kahlo was a complex and compelling figure who is now the subject of an unusual bilingual exhibition at the compact Hudson River Museum (HRM) https://www.hrm.org/ in Yonkers through May 22.
This is Frida as you have never seen her before: filtered through the prisms of 75 contemporary artists who have immersed themselves in her life, mythology, scoured her journals, and channeled her carefully cultivated persona through their own visions and mediums.
Kahlo’s work went unrecognized during her lifetime (1907-1954), but by the late 1970s, art historians and political activists discovered her and that fascination continues.
Says Laura Vookle, Chair of HRM’s Curatorial Department, “We thought the art was striking and strong and we appreciated that the artists represented diverse backgrounds (White, African American, Latinx, Asian American, men, women, LGBTQ), including some international artists."
Installed in the upper gallery is Frida Kahlo in Context/Frida Kahlo en contexto where visitors see Frida through the eyes of her friend and lover, the Hungarian-born photographer, Nickolas Muray. His black and white photos are considered some of the most intimate images of her and are juxtaposed with vibrant costumes of Oaxaca from the Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Nueva York; don’t miss Mexican muralist Diego Rivera’s painting in this section.
Displayed in the lower galleries is The World of Frida/El Mundo de Frida: some works are in homage to Kahlo’s self-portraits that highlight details of her life, such as her tumultuous marriage to Rivera, her physical traumas, her frustration at being unable to bear children and one gallery is dedicated to her love of flowers, plants and animals.
Dominating one wall is Trying to be Frida, Brussels-based Emilio Lˇpez-Menchero’s larger than life photo that transforms him into Frida, mixing the familiar background with the unfamiliar face adds to the surprise. He writes: “… being an artist is a way of expressing your identity; it’s the act of constantly inventing yourself.”
Nearby is Razan Elbaba’s photo, Razan Kahlo, in which she wears a traditional hijab. Her series of self-portraits recreate those of determined, well-known women like Rosie the Riveter, Cleopatra among others. By linking herself to heroic women, Elbaba states “Although we may appear different, we all possess the same inherent strength and value.”
Similarly, Kahlo’s work caught Atsuko Morita’s attention the moment she saw her first paintings. Through a chromogenic darkroom print, Morita recreates Kahlo’s portrait in her own likeness in Self-Portrait as Frida Kahlo.
Among the most striking pieces is Barbara Johansen Newman’s acrylic on wood, All this Madness. The wooden forehead ablaze with her famous thick bat-like eyebrows with giant eyes bears a portrait of Rivera on her forehaed, as a nod to Kahlo’s self-portrait, Diego on My Mind.
The title for Newman’s piece was inspired by a letter Kahlo wrote in her journal to Rivera: “All this madness, if I asked it of you, I know, in your silence, there would be only confusion.”
Of her applique and embroidery piece Larger than Life (Frida Kahlo), Kerstin Bruchhńuser of Hamburg, Germany says this piece was inspired by Toni Frissell’s photo of Kahlo that appeared in American Vogue in 1937.
Bruchhńuser transferred Kahlo’s image onto to cotton and silk, leather and linen – materials Kahlo used for her wardrobe to hide the body brace, casts and prosthetic limb she wore after her right leg was amputated in 1953. Of this trauma, Kahlo wrote in her diary, “Feet, why do I need them if I have wings to fly?”
Shannon Taylor whose work Frida, Sky & Earth is installed among the flora and fauna group, writes, “To think of Frida Kahlo is to imagine something lovely, wild and broken; someone made more beautiful by damage.” Adjacent is Francisco Franco’s Deer Frida’s Martyrdom depicting a deer with the head of Frida Kahlo highlighting both immortality and fragility.
One wonders if Kahlo could ever have imagined her life would have electrified so many imaginations, and given birth to a global family that never tires of reinterpreting and revisiting her legacy.
As Taylor writes, “… her (Kahlo’s) relationship to the feminine, her culture and to survival carved altars on the hearts of every woman, artist and kindred sprit who has seen her work.”
If the opening weekend’s visitor counts of some 550 visitors – close to pre-pandemic opening weekends – the show could very well attract record numbers. “We can’t wait for our audiences to experience the wonder and empathy of Frida for themselves at these exhibitions’ only New York venue, adds Vookles.
Open Thursday through Sunday, 12-5 pm
Understanding the Art and Biography of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (Virtual)
Wednesday, March 30, 7pm: Hilda Trujillo, former Director of the Diego Rivera-Anahuacalli Museum and the Frida Kahlo Casa Azul Museum, will give a lecture from Mexico City about the artist Frida Kahlo.
Fiesta de Frida/Festival from Frida Kahlo’s Cookbook, Sunday, April 10 (Rain date: Sunday, April 24.) HRM is inviting local Mexican restaurants to bring their Frida-inspired dishes for visitors to taste, after which the visitors can take home their favorite recipe, and purchase a serving of each restaurant’s house specialty (recipes will be available in English and Spanish). Guadalupe Rivera, Diego Rivera’s daughter from his first marriage, and author Marie-Pierre Cole published a compilation of Kahlo’s recipes in Fridaﾒs Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo that will be available in the Museum Shop.
Frida’s Flowers! Sunday, April 24, 1-3pm: Features a gallery walk with a local horticulturist/botanist to point out the science and iconography of the flowers and foliage in the works on view, with special attention to Diego Rivera’s La ofrenda and photographs in Frida Kahlo in Context as well as the floral motifs found in The World of Frida.
Chisme Con Chocolate (Gossip with Chocolate), Saturday, May 21, 1–3pm based on an old tradition of women gathering on Saturday mornings over chocolate, chilaquiles to gossip; visitors will be invited to a demonstration (and tasting) of how traditional Mexican hot chocolate is made using a molenillo.
About Maria Lisella:
Maria Lisella is a seaoned pro in travel/culture/health for trade and consumer editorial and custom sites. She contributes to the bilingual La Voce di New York, Travel Market Report, The Jerusalem Post and Never Stop Traveling. She was recently named a Poet Laureate Fellow by the Academy of American Poets. Her work can be seen at https://marialisella.contently.com
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