Friday, May 15, 2015

FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life - Review by Polly Guerin

If you ever wanted to visit Frida Kahlo’s garden at the Casa Azul (Blue House), also known as the Museo Frida Kahlo, the artist’s lifelong home outside of Mexico City-- all you need to do is to day trip over to The New York Botanical Garden. Celebrating Frida’s art, her gardens and her life the NYBG exhibition focuses exclusively on Kahlo’s intense interest in the botanical world and her complex use of plant imagery in her paintings. If you are a Kahlo fan as I am, or even a neophyte art enthusiast, this first solo exhibition on Kahlo in New York City in more than ten years, does not disappoint and is on view from May 16 through November 1, 2015.
BLUE WALLS FRAMED FRIDA'S GARDEN:: Frida Kahlo is revered as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century and is recognized as an international symbol of Mexican and feminist identity. Her compositions express her unique world view in portraits and still lifes filled with colorful, compelling images of flowers, foliage, fruits and animals. The landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is full of joy in the visual exploration of the colors and textures of Frida Kahlo’s deep connection to the natural world and to Mexico. Passing the indigo-blue replicas of the walls that framed Frida’s home garden, Casa Azul, one is at first startled by the luminosity of the walls as they serve as a backdrop along lava rock paths lined with eye-pleasing flower beds representing the colorful garden plants of Mexico.
     The Casa Azul Pyramid: This leads you to a scale version of the pyramid erected at the Casa Azul. Frida and her husband, famed muralist Diego Rivera were prolific collectors of Mexico’s historical treasures and their home overflowed with rare and unique object d’art of Mexican heritage. The pyramid with its bold yellow and blue accents stands before you in a dramatic display against an indigo blue wall background. It was originally created to display pre-Hispanic art collected by Diego Rivera and here it showcases traditional terra-cotta pots filled with Mexican cacti and succulents. A niche adjacent to the pyramid  provides an intimate insight as it contains a desk and easel, reminding visitors that Kahlo’s work in her studio was intertwined with her life and her garden.

     Kahlo’s Rare Paintings: Take a stroll along the garden path to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s Art Gallery where art treasures on the sixth floor feature an exhibit of  fourteen of Kahlo’s paintings, which highlight the artist’s use of botanical imagery in her work. The paintings focus on her lesser-known yet equally spectacular still lifes and include Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940), Still Life with Parrot and Flag (1951) and Self-Portrait inside a Sunflower (1954). Frida’s still life paintings depict a variety of fruit and flowers, including many native to Mexico, alongside animals, Mexican folk art, and pre-Hispanic objects.
    The Two Fridas:  The painting, The Two Fridas, gets its due recognition in the Britton Rotunda, on the fourth floor of the Library building . Not to be missed, it is an installation of specially commissioned artwork replicating Frida’s dual persona. Contemporary Artist in Residence, Humberto Spindola has re-created an installation of paper dresses that first debuted at the Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City in 2009. Inspired by Katho's double self-portrait, The Two FridaS (1939), Spindola re-creates her iconic dresses, one in a native Mexican costume, the other in a Victorian gown, representing Frida’s two lives. He employs acid-free tissue paper and light-resistant pigments to create long-lasting works of fine art evoking traditional 17th- and 18th-century Mexican craft techniques.
    A rich programming compliments the Conservatory and Library exhibitions, including a poetry walk and poetry readings, film screenings, entertainment.  Stop by the Cantina and sit at tables or benches and relax against colorful pillows while sipping typical Mexican cocktail as you listen to lively folk to mariachi music typical of Frieda’s country.   Wide range of programs include lectures, a Film Series, Cooking with Frida demonstrations, and Frida’s Flora and Fauna. Weekends are especially festive with music and dance performances with live music, cocktails and Mexican-inspired dinner menus.
      At The New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York 10458. For more information contact call 718.817.8700 or visit
    A new mobile phone experience, produced in collaboration with the museum of Modern Art, allows visitors to explore the exhibition from anywhere in the world.  

   Ta Ta Darlings!!! Day Tripping to the NYBG is an easy hop on the Metro North. Fan mail welcome at Please check Polly’s Bogs on and click on the links in the left hand column.

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