How inspired of the New York Botanical Garden to make their theme this year center on Frida Kahlo. Her paintings make surreal use of nature, with dense natural settings, humans morphing into plants, and loads of birds, insects, and animals.
The exhibition at the Library explains how hybridity in Kahlo’s work refers not just to this crossbreeding between plant and human-animal, but also to Mexico’s dual ethnic heritage (Native and Spanish). She cleverly blends all the themes in her 1931 portrait (above) of Luther Burbank, known for hybridizing plants.
Flower of Life from 1944 brings in Kahlo’s interest in depicting sexuality, with its red angel trumpet flower and Mexico’s native poinsettia. Can you read her references?
Kahlo was known for her self portraits, and this show features one of her most famous: Self-Portrait with a Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird. With the bloody spots and dead bird at her neck, no one would describe Kahlo as subtle. Yet her color palette and brazen display of personal experience never fails to compel me to look and look and want to know and try to understand her. And maybe her pet monkey, too.
Contemporary artist Humberto Spindola pays tribute to another famous positing, Two Freda’s. It’s a 3D installation that can come even more to life as performance art. Two women pose as the painting’s figures, while wearing the tissue paper and bark recreations of the native costumes Kahlo favored. The tissue paper and bark are also not a terribly subtle to Kahlo’s simultaneously fragile and tough nature. Alas, no one was performing when I was there; hopefully, you’ll get to see it.
As ever, the Botanical Garden also converts its displays over to the theme. The candy-like Conservatory building is full of Kahlo’s environments, ranging from desert to rainforest, from arid cacti to verdant moistness. Being immersed here, we can see and smell and hear what Kahlo saw, smelled, and heard.
Enjoy these slide shows until you can get there in person. What a charmer!
The arid desert
The lush rainforest