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An artwork entitled 'Self-portrait with Necklace', by Frida Kahlo, 1933. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
An artwork entitled 'Self-portrait with Necklace', by Frida Kahlo, 1933. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

‘Strong & accomplished’

New exhibition on Frida Kahlo features unseen work — and insight into an enigmatic icon

By WITW Staff on February 1, 2019

A new exhibition featuring the work and belongings of legendary Mexican painter and style icon Frida Kahlo is set to go on display at the Brooklyn Museum in New York on February 8. The exhibit includes a plethora of artistic works as well as personal effects from Kahlo’s home, La Casa Azul, in Mexico City that have never before been accessible in the United States — providing insight into the life of an enigmatic but ever vibrant artist known for her embrace of her Mesoamerican roots, and her disdain for income inequality and commercialized notions of beauty.

Speaking to the New York Times, curators for the exhibition characterized Kahlo as a masterful painter, whose love of art and political views found expression in both her work and personal look. She wore ethnic dresses inspired by Oaxaca’s Tehuana, a matriarchal society, and meticulously groomed her famous unibrow, which she defiantly embraced as an important aspect of both her individuality and beauty. According to Lisa Small, the museum’s senior curator for European Art, the exhibit will display Kahlo’s “extraordinary chunky necklaces,” which were adorned with traditional “Mesoamerican jade stones.”

Another aspect of Kahlo’s personal life can be found in a variety of paintings that show her in drag, typically wearing suits with her hair slicked back. Kahlo is said to have explored relationships with women, but is only known to have spoken about that side of herself on one occasion, according to Catherine Morris, a senior curator at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

The exhibit also features a variety of Kahlo’s medical devices, which were used to assist with Kahlo’s leg, which was severely damaged from polio, and her severe chronic pain and other injuries sustained from a bus accident. Despite her carefully curated appearance, Kahlo made no secret of her injuries — and even decorated her casts and plaster corset with elaborate designs, including the Communist hammer and sickle.

“She’s often portrayed as a victim, and we’re consciously trying to reframe her,” Morris told The New York Times. “People have described her as broken and fragile, but she was strong and accomplished a tremendous amount in her lifetime.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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