The anticipation had been building for a few months. The word was out. Frida Kahlo was going to have an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. I wasn’t just giddy with excitement but also curious as to what else I could learn about one of my favorite artists. The exhibit opened in early February and already it was proving to be the hottest ticket in town with sold-out weekends. I had to wait almost a month for my event day to come but here it was. I also grew up in Brooklyn so it was a nice journey through memory lane riding around the borough although it’s quite apparent how much of it has changed. So finally, I arrived at the museum and the exhibition was named, “Appearances Can Be Deceiving” (Las Apariencias Engañan). The title alone intrigued me.
The exhibit was extensive and full of details from Frida’s childhood, her political views, her relationship with fellow artist and husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. But it didn’t end there. This exhibition had so many layers to all the sides of Frida. I learned that in her earlier years she had a very close relationship with her father, Guillermo Kahlo who migrated from Germany to Mexico early in his life. He was also a portrait photographer and Frida learned much from her father’s photography talent. His teachings would later show in her self-portrait paintings with regards to lighting and angles. Photography was not the only bond she had with her father, it was also that he suffered from epilepsy and she found herself aiding him at times. Her disabilities were also chronicled in this exhibit. Her years of health challenges due to polio and later the trolley accident, left her spine and pelvis injured which in turn affected her health substantially. Interesting enough when she was younger she was very interested in becoming a doctor but she took a different path.
The curators of this presentation provided film and footage of the inside of Frida and Diego’s “Casa Azul”, the Blue House in Mexico City which is now a museum. The indoors as much as the outdoors showed Frida’s love of color, art, exotic flowers, animals and plants. On display was a box of her paints and brushes, her wheelchair in front of her easel, the mirror above her bed where she laid and painted extensively during the years where her mobility and health were challenged.
I also learned that her artistry went beyond the canvas. She had a passion for all types of creative crafts at home. Her fashion was a true expression of who she was on so many levels. Her fashion was bold, colorful and representative of her Mexican heritage. Her political stance was also a part of her art as she painted communist symbols on some of her body casts that she needed to use. After all, she was raised during the Mexican revolution. She also embraced every aspect of who she was including her bisexuality and was unapologetic to show her masculine and feminine sides in her paintings as well as her style choices. She certainly pushed gender and social boundaries.
Kahlo suffered emotional loss many times in her life. From the tumultuous affairs by her husband Diego, to her many ailments and miscarriage. Every aspect of her pain is vivid in her life’s work. But she was more than her pain and heartbreak. Frida was brave, strong and never let her physical limitations deter her spirit to live fully. Although Frida hid her physical disabilities through some of her wardrobe choices, her heart was always on display through her work and all her contributions she has given to the world. She never considered herself a surrealist artist. She said quite often that she painted her reality and that she did.
Overall, this exhibit provides a detailed, emotional and realistic interpretation of Frida Kahlo’s life. If you have admired her work or like myself think you have covered everything there is to know about this masterful artist, I say this is a must-see exhibit. You will walk away awe-inspired by this masterful artist.
Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving is on display from now until May 12, 2019 at the Brooklyn Museum, New York.
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