Frida Kahlo Has Arrived In The Bronx at The New York Botanical Garden & You’re Going to Love It

 

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Frida Kahlo has finally arrived in The Bronx.

Yesterday, we were treated to a special media preview for The New York Botanical Garden’s ‘Frida Kahlo: Art-Garden-Life’ exhibition—after 11 months of its announcement—and all that anticipation and build up was well worth the wait.

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Immediately upon entering the main gates at Southern Boulevard aka Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff Boulevard, you see a row of tall palm trees in planters and traditional Mexican folk music playing through the speakers.

One of the first things you’ll notice is the addition of a cantina created just for the exhibition where you can purchase a tasty agua de jamaica or hibiscus punch or even an horchata (the Mexican version is made of rice milk with sometimes a hint of vanilla but always has cinnamon thrown in).

 

As you walk towards the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, where Kahlo’s reimagined studio at La Casa Azul aka the Blue House is on display, one is treated to poems (everything about this exhibition is bilingual in English and Spanish) as part of the Poetry For Every Season: Octavio Paz Poetry Walk. Octavio Paz, a Mexican Nobel Prize winning author and poet, wrote poems referencing many native plants and flowers hence their inclusion as part of this multidisciplinary artistic display on Kahlo’s life and influences as well as her art. The exhibition wing at the conservatory is an explosion of the native fauna of Mexico found at Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s Casa Azul including typical pottery and planters (speaking of pottery and planters, don’t forget to check out the gift shop which is filled with Frida related items.) La Casa Azul was painstakingly recreated down to getting the right blue pigment. It was a project that was years in planning to get it just right and it is the first of its kind that examines Kahlo’s, “…interest in the botanical world” as the NYBG tells it. The New York Botanical Garden explains: “When we began to research Frida Kahlo, we wanted to delve into the story of the woman who has been examined through her pain and suffering and paint her in a different light. We wanted to learn more about the iconic face that is emblazoned on canvases, the strong and fierce-looking dark-haired, dark-eyed woman who used to be known as Diego Rivera’s wife and is now known simply as Frida. The more we researched, the more intrigued we became. To us, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird was an image of a woman immersed in tropical flora. Her still-life paintings, an important yet lesser-known portion of her work, are informative displays of the rich diversity of Mexico’s plant life. We were fascinated by the incredible detail of Kahlo’s curated life, as evidenced by her paintings, her letters, and archival photos of Kahlo and Rivera in their garden. Her story was ripe to be told by The New York Botanical Garden.

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940. Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. © 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940. Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. © 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

First and foremost, we surmised that Kahlo possessed a keen appreciation of the beauty and variety of Mexico’s flora and fauna, an interest evident in the  garden and decoration of her home, the Casa Azul, as well as in the complex use of plant imagery in her painting. We aimed to achieve a new understanding of her paintings by looking at them through a horticultural lens. Kahlo’s nationalistic leanings seem to have contributed to her interest in tropical and desert plants, many native to Mexico. And the collector’s drive that fueled her stunning collections of toys and art seems to have extended to her garden, which evolved over time to include a wide array of plants.” After you’re done at the conservatory, make sure to head over to the 6th floor of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library—one of the most comprehensive and biggest botanical libraries in the globe— to continue the exhibition where 14 of Frida Kahlo’s works are on display including paintings and drawings.

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, I am the person I know best.” — Frida Kahlo

Many of these are not as widely known as some of her other works but their importance isn’t diminished by that fact but in rather offer a greater insight into the Frida because of their relative obscurity due to many being borrowed from private collections.

Artist Humberto Spindola looks on as two male models pose wearing replicas of his paper dresses based on Frida's 'Las Dos Fridas/The Two Fridas'. The use of the male models is an allusion to Kahlo's bisexuality and she often dressed in drag as even posing in family portraits as a man.
Artist Humberto Spindola looks on as two male models pose wearing replicas of his paper dresses based on Frida’s ‘Las Dos Fridas/The Two Fridas’. The use of the male models is an allusion to Kahlo’s bisexuality and she often dressed in drag as even posing in family portraits as a man.
Frida Kahlo in drag, with sisters Adriana and Christina and cousins Carmen and Carlos Verasa, photographed by Guillermo Kahlo, 1926.
Frida Kahlo in drag, with sisters Adriana and Christina and cousins Carmen and Carlos Verasa, photographed by Guillermo Kahlo, 1926.

On the 4th floor of the library, you will find a representation of one of Frida’s works, ‘Las dos Fridas’ (The Two Fridas) recreated as paper dresses in a traditional 17th and 18th century Mexican style that quite possibly dates back to the ancient Aztecs. Artist Humberto Spíndola of Mexico created these in 2009 and had two male models wear the dresses which he did once again for the preview yesterday. This is just a mere fraction of what to expect at Frida Kahlo: Art-Garden-Life as the exhibition runs through November and is chock full of programming from music concerts, dancing to lectures and film (See NYBG for more information on the following: Frida Kahlo | Evenings | Calendar | Visit Get Tickets | Ongoing Programs | Educational Events | Weekend Celebrations | For Families For Members | Calendar | Coming this Fall )

The exhibition opens to the general public this Saturday, May 16th, however, NYBG members get to enjoy the exhibition on Friday, May 15th and information is as follows: Friday, May 15; 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Members have exclusive access to this blockbuster exhibition and special programs before the public opening. Benefits on Members-Only Preview Day: • Free parking with a valid Member ID • 20% discount on all purchases at Shop in the Garden • 10% discount at the Café • Up to four half-price tickets for friends and family Guest passes are accepted with valid Member ID. Don’t forget to tag your pics on social media using #FridaNYBG and tag us #welcome2thebronx so we can see them!! Let us know what you think when you see it! Oh and don’t forget, you can take the mobile tour via your smartphone! The mobile website is a digital brochure and map of the exhibition right on your phone and you can even take a selfie and dress it up Frida style. The content is available in both English and Spanish!

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