Monday, June 18, 2018
Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up...
What an amazing woman Frida Kahlo was; painter, poet, potter, photographer, and pioneer. Disabled by polio at 6, seriously maimed in a vehicle accident at 18, abused by her husband, she lived a bohemian life of art, politics, and passion.
The exhibition attempts to give a fresh perspective on Kahlo's compelling life story through her most intimate personal belongings. Throughout her life Kahlo fashioned her own identity and this extraordinary collection of personal artefacts and clothing belonging to this most iconic of Mexican artists goes some way to explain how she did it. Locked away for 50 years after her death, this collection has never before been exhibited outside Mexico.
Last autumn Stuart and I were lucky enough to see the original collection in Mexico City when we went to the Kahlo's Blue House (La Casa Azul) and it would be fair to say that they have brought most of the good stuff over. We get to see her photographs, her dresses, her paints, her make-up, and her poetry. It might have been nice if they had recreated part of the Blue House itself to give some context – but this is a minor quibble.
And having seen the exhibition do we get to unmask the 'real' Frida? Do we know who she is? Or does she further disappear behind her defiant façade that she created? By the time you emerge from the theatrical last room of dresses and shoes, you know for sure that you have absolutely no idea who the real Frida Kahlo was. You only know what she wanted to show: what pain looks like, what Mexico looks like, what gender looks like; what love looks like. It is her agenda, not ours.
Frida Kahlo only ever really revealed one thing to us: art - in all her guises. But in this exhibition, we have at least seen the tools - the intimate personal tools - of this amazing artist.