Frida Kahlo and Mexican Modernism

Frida Kahlo Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism

Before this exhibit I didn’t know much about Frida or her life. I certainly know she is a famous artist and can spot her from all her self portraits but besides that, not much about what made her so unique. I love to learn so was excited when the Portland Art Museum had a special exhibit about her life and work. The museum once a quarter puts on special exhibits like this. As a member I get free admission and love to take advantage of that. The museum I think is great but doesn’t have a particularly noteworthy permanent collection that draws a large crowd. These special exhibits are what really draw the crowds, well at least me. Often you can stroll through the permanent collection and not run into other visitors depending on the day.

With this exhibit entering its final weeks I needed to visit the museum before it was gone. I had tried a few times before but things never worked out. Being closed on Mondays and Tuesdays right now always throws me for a loop. Thursday was a decent day for weather so I walked to the museum to check things out. I was surprised at the number of people in the exhibit for a random Thursday.

Overall the exhibit had only a few of her works and I believe they where all on loan from individuals or other museums. I later was reading that Mexico has banned the exportation of her work because they consider her a cultural icon and want to preserver her work for future generations of Mexicans. What I loved was not the depth of her work but the story it told about her life. For me one of the coolest things was seeing photos of Frida starting in 1929 through 1945. It wasn’t every year but you could see this young talented artist growing old before your eyes.

Untitled, 1930 by Diego Rivera

Most of what was on display was intimate photographs and accompanying plaque describing the scene. There where photos of her at protests, working at her studio with her husband Diego, and lots of her at her home which is now a museum dedicated to her life and work. The exhibit went a little into her accident and the lifelong pain it caused her and how that pain was turned into art. She had a miscarriage and she used that pain to create art and to help deal with the loss of her baby. Very dramatic stuff.

As to often happens the world lost a brilliant artists too soon and like many others, her genius was not widely recognized till after her passing. She is now one of the most recognized artists in the world because of all her self portraits and the stories her paintings tell. She is an important culture icon in Mexico and especially those that can relate to her pain and suffering. She was an ardent supporter of first nations in Mexico and indigenous people around the world have taken her up as an icon of their movement. An excellent exhibit that told her life’s story in a brilliant and beautiful way. I love the work the Portland Art Museum does and the benefits it brings to the community. I can’t wait till the next special exhibit goes on display.