For fans of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, an exhibit of her photographs opening Oct. 31 at the Heard Museum is a window to her worldview, to the people she loved, to her passions and to the pain she suffered nearly constantly throughout her life.
For those introducing themselves to Ms. Kahlo’s legacy, “Frida Kahlo: Her Photos” is a window into the soul of one of the 20th century’s most intriguing artists.
Visitors will see how Ms. Kahlo’s personal photographs inspired, comforted and served as work tools for her incredible art in the exhibit. It opens to the public Oct. 31, in the museum’s Edward Jacobson Gallery, where it will be on view until Feb. 8, 2016, according to a press release.
According to the release, the exhibit curated by Mexican photographer and photography historian Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, reflects the interest that Ms. Kahlo had in her colorful but pain-filled life: “…her family, her fascination for [Diego] Rivera and her other loves, her broken body and medical science, her friends and some enemies, the political struggle and art, indigenous people and the pre-Columbian past – all coated in the great passion she had for Mexico and for the Mexicans.”
The 241 photographs, taken by Tina Modotti, Edward Weston, Nickolas Muray, Lola Alvarez Bravo and others, were chosen from a collection of 6,500 images that are part of an archive at Casa Azul, or the Blue House, where Ms. Kahlo lived, according to the release.
These photos were cherished by Ms. Kahlo when she was immobilized and isolated in her bed.
Ms. Kahlo had a very special relationship with photography. Besides her personal background – both her father, Guillermo Kahlo, and her maternal grandfather were professional photographers – she brought different uses to photography, stated the release. She collected daguerreotypes and visiting cards (carte de visite in French or tarjeta de visita in the original) from the 19th century, she kept photographs upon which she put her personal stamp, cutting things out from them, writing dedications on them and personalizing them as if they were paintings, according to the release.
Some of the images have red lipstick kisses, others are trimmed or folded. Some photographs have personal notations on the reverse. These images give visitors an intimate view of Ms. Kahlo’s life.
The photographs are organized into six main subjects: The Origins; The Blue House; Politics, Revolutions and Diego; Her Broken Body; Frida’s Loves and Photography. The images throw new light on Ms. Kahlo’s work as an artist, a way of understanding her life in historical and cultural context, and a demonstration of her passion for Mexico, stated the release.
Las Favoritas de Frida
A companion exhibit, Las Favoritas de Frida, explores the life and times of Kahlo through items selected in partnership with the Phoenix Fridas, according to the release.
These items drawn from the Heard’s permanent collection reflect the kinds of items that the Phoenix Fridas imagined that Ms. Kahlo could have had stored in her closets, which were only recently opened for public display and viewing. The items include pottery, clothing, jewelry and other Mexican, Meso-American and Latino art, according to the release.
They selected some art works they imagined Ms. Kahol would have had on her bedside table, wall or bookshelf: vibrant textiles, ceramic animal figures, copper and wood masks and a lively tree of life. Other items look as if they were taken directly from Ms. Kahlo’s closet, from colorfully embroidered blouses, large stone necklaces, shawls (rebozos) and ornate jewelry with beads and coins, according to the release. Figurines from the Heard collection reflect Ms. Kahlo’s love of animals.
According to the release, the Phoenix Fridas examined items from among more than 400 pieces of Mexican art purchased for the Heard in 1979 by the Friends of Mexican Art, an organization that promotes the appreciation of Mexican art through sponsoring exhibits, lectures, art purchases and other activities that encourage the friendship and understanding between the peoples of Arizona and Mexico.
Interviews with each member of the Fridas — Emily Costello, Monica Crespo, Carmen Guerrero, Anita Mabante Leach, Gloria Martinez-Casillas, Monique Mata, Kathy Murillo, Annalisa Serna and Veronica Verdugo Lomeli — are included in a 30-minute video that will be screened in the gallery during the exhibit. Members of the group will also assist with exhibit-related programs presented at the Heard, according to the release.