Funny Girl.

A few weeks ago my wife and I went to the exhibit of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and other modern Mexican artists at the Frist Art Museum. It was pretty cool seeing some of Kahlo’s works in person. Until now I’d only seen reproductions in books and reproductions, no matter how good, don’t give any sense of the scale that you get when standing in front of the original, or the connection to the artist’s hand. And yet I wondered, what could I say about Kahlo, or Rivera, that hasn’t already been said by experts? I only took a few pictures—and in fact I was surprised I could since most museums don’t allow visitors to take pictures, maybe because they want you to buy the ones in the gift shop—because I was so focused on the paintings themselves.

To get back to that question of what I could say, after we went to the exhibit I read about a long distance runner who plotted out a run to draw a picture of Frida Kahlo using San Francisco city streets. And last December the city–excuse me, The City, as San Francisco, or “Frisco” prefers to be known–changed the name of Phelan Avenue to “Frida Kahlo Way”.

Source: SFGate

It was funny and reminded me that one of the explanatory placards for the Frist exhibit said that it Frida Kahlo were alive today she’d be “puzzled” by her status as an international pop icon. Yeah, I don’t think so. It’s true that Kahlo has gone from being a well-known artist in Mexico, but hardly known outside of it, during her lifetime, to one of the world’s most famous and popular artists, even the subject of the terrific movie Frida starring Salma Hayek and directed by Julie Taymor, but during her all too brief life, even before she became known as a painter, she carefully cultivated her image—including that unibrow, which she emphasized with makeup. The exhibit even included a selection of Mexican dresses Kahlo wore, all with deep cultural meanings, and her paintings are often heavily layered with deeply personal symbolism. A funny thing my wife said was, “She was really beautiful, why did she make herself so ugly in some of her paintings?” There are a lot of possible answers to that—Rivera’s unfaithfulness and the bouts of extreme pain she suffered throughout her life might have made her feel ugly. She also had a wonderful sense of humor and I think that’s part of it too.

I may not be an expert but I don’t think the right word for for Frida Kahlo would feel about the symbol she’s become would be “puzzled”. I think the right word would be amused.

 

8 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    I always love seeing Frida Kahlo and also you, Chris, and there’s nothing puzzling about that.

    Here’s my blog post about seeing a similar Frida Kahlo exhibit in Boston earlier this year:

    It’s funny, but I forgot there was so much other stuff in that post of mine. What I did remember was the pain Frida Kahlo was in and how much that influenced her life and her art. I appreciate how you mentioned that in this post.

    As always, your blog helps ease my pain about the ugliness n the world, especially on a day like today. Thank you!
    Ann Koplow recently posted…Day 2443: Mass shootingsMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Ooops! Wrong link to my previous blog post. Here it is:

      https://annkoplow.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/day-2362-things-life-and-people/

      Chris — let me know if you want to resubmit this comment correctly.

      Reply
    2. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m glad I could help ease some of the pain of the horrific days of this weekend, and you’ve helped me some too, with both links.
      I think it’s very meaningful that Frida Kahlo’s pain influenced her art so much, but just as meaningful that she overcame it, and that, in spite of the pain, she found joy in life.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    Ooops! Wrong link to my previous blog post. Here it is:

    https://annkoplow.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/day-2362-things-life-and-people/

    Chris — let me know if you want to resubmit this comment correctly.

    Reply
  3. Ann Koplow

    I always love seeing Frida Kahlo and also you, Chris, and there’s nothing puzzling about that.

    Here’s my blog post about seeing a similar Frida Kahlo exhibit in Boston earlier this year:

    https://annkoplow.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/day-2362-things-life-and-people/

    It’s funny, but I forgot there was so much other stuff in that post of mine. What I did remember was the pain Frida Kahlo was in and how much that influenced her life and her art. I appreciate how you mentioned that in this post.

    As always, your blog helps ease my pain about the ugliness n the world, especially on a day like today. Thank you!
    Ann Koplow recently posted…Day 2443: Mass shootingsMy Profile

    Reply
  4. Laura

    Glad you got the opportunity to see some of Kahlo’s work in person, Christopher!

    I don’t know much about her but I’m really intrigued now. Thanks for recommending the Frida movie… I love Salma Hayek so I’m sure I’m going to enjoy it. 🙂
    Laura recently posted…Funny Makeup Quotes | Perfect Quotes For Instagram CaptionsMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Hayek was really a brilliant choice to play Kahlo, and she was a producer too because it was a passion project for her. I hope you do enjoy it!

      Reply
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