Art rooted in the garden: Show explores Kahlo from new angle

Jun 3, 2015, 5:49 AM
n This 2015 photo provided by The New York Botanical Garden shows cactuses, colors and textures of ...
This 2015 photo provided by The New York Botanical Garden shows cactuses, colors and textures of Frida Kahlo's Mexico on display at the "Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life" exhibit at The New York Botanical Garden in Bronx, N.Y. The show runs May 16 through Nov. 1, 2015. (Ivo M. Vermeulen/The New York Botanical Garden via AP)n
(Ivo M. Vermeulen/The New York Botanical Garden via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — In a sprawling, multi-disciplinary show, The New York Botanical Garden focuses on a long-overlooked side of artist Frida Kahlo: her deep connection to Mexico’s plants and flowers, and how they inspired her art.

“Flora is a very important part of her creativity,” said guest curator Ariana Zavala, a specialist in Mexican art and director of Latino Studies at Tufts University. Even those who thought they knew everything about Kahlo, Zavala said, will come away having learned something new.

The exhibit, “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life,” includes 14 of Kahlo’s original works; an evocation of the garden at her Mexico City home, Casa Azul (Blue House); plentiful photos from Kahlo’s life; and various Mexican cultural offerings. It will be on view through Nov. 1.

A good place to begin is in the huge, glass Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, where the focus is on the gardens of Casa Azul, where Kahlo was born in 1907, lived for years with muralist Diego Rivera, and died in 1954. Pathways are lined with sunflowers, marigolds, fuchsia, palms, jacaranda, oleander, and numerous succulents and cacti, many of which still grow at Casa Azul, now a museum.

The lush, indigo-blue walls of Kahlo’s home have been vividly rendered, as has her garden’s Aztec-inspired pyramid, designed by Rivera, who painted it dazzling rose, blue and yellow. Here, it holds an array of native Mexican succulents and cacti in huge terracotta planters.

In researching the show, horticulturalists at the botanical garden, working with colleagues in Mexico and a longtime volunteer gardener at Casa Azul, came to understand Kahlo as an expert in plants, with an impressive botanical library. She replanted her parents’ European-style garden with a mix of cacti and succulents, which she saw as symbolic of the native plants of Mexico, and with tropical plants, fruit trees, and other edible or medicinal plants.

“When we learned about Kahlo as a truly sophisticated gardener, who also happened to be a great artist and cultural icon, we were blown away,” said Todd Forrest, the botanical garden’s vice president for horticulture and living collections.

Over time, Kahlo transformed Casa Azul into an expression of her deep connection to the natural world and to Mexico.

Her studio overlooked the garden, and the plants came to play an important role in her art.

“As we studied Frida Kahlo through her plants, two important themes emerged: those of duality and of hybridity,” Zavala said.

Both themes are illustrated in the 14 artworks on view at the garden’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library art gallery. In Kahlo’s 1931 “Portrait of Luther Burbank,” the horticulturalist, whose garden she and Rivera had visited, is depicted as a hybrid plant-human. Kahlo, whose father was born in Germany and whose mother was Mexican, repeated this theme of hybrid origin in other works on view.

“Two Nudes in a Forest,” painted in 1939, shows a light-skinned woman resting her head on a dark-skinned one. And in the 1940 “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird,” Kahlo, impassive and dressed in stark white, stares straight at the viewer while lush tropical vegetation and animals, including a black monkey and cat, surround her and appear to be on the verge of overtaking her.

In conjunction with the show, the garden is offering an array of cultural offerings to celebrate the artist.

“Frida liked to have fun. She had a love of life. This project is a celebration of Mexico,” said Zavala. “In addition to taking in Frida’s paintings and Frida’s plants and what they meant to her, we hope people stay to enjoy some food and music from Mexico.”

There are Mexican cocktails and food; cooking lessons; textile demonstrations; music; an “Octavio Paz Poetry walk”; a native plant walk, and even a Mexican-themed puppet theater and “Frida’s Kitchen” exhibit for kids.

Wall texts throughout the show are in Spanish and English.

___

Online:

The New York Botanical Garden: www.nybg.org

Casa Azul: www.museofridakahlo.org.mx

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

Demonstrators block traffic protesting the death of Tyre Nichols on January 27, 2023 in Memphis, Te...
Associated Press

Memphis police chief disbands unit responsible in beating of Tyre Nichols

The unit is composed of three teams of about 30 officers and had been inactive since Tyre Nichols' Jan. 7 arrest.
2 days ago
The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, by the City of Memphis, shows Tyre Nichols on the g...
Associated Press

Memphis authorities release video in Tyre Nichols’ death

Video showing Memphis officers beating a Black man was made public Friday after they were charged with murder in the death of Tyre Nichols.
3 days ago
Demonstrators stage a rally in front of the White House to celebrate President Joe Biden's plan to ...
Kevin Stone

Lawsuits keeping over 300,000 Arizonans from getting student loan relief

Lawsuits are preventing more than 300,000 Arizonans from having some or all of their student debt dismissed, the Biden administration said Friday.
3 days ago
FILE -  A Goodyear tire sits on display at a tire shop on Feb. 12, 2014, in South Euclid, Ohio. A f...
Associated Press

Arizona lawyer subpoenaed in criminal investigation of Goodyear tires

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering evidence in a criminal investigation of Goodyear recreational vehicle tires.
4 days ago
Following days of rain, floodwaters cover streets in the Planada community of Merced County, Calif....
Associated Press

Atmospheric rivers in California boost water allocation for cities

Public water agencies in California will be getting more water from the state because of recent heavy rain.
4 days ago
(Brian Munoz/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)...
Associated Press

FDA declines to regulate CBD; calls on Congress for fix

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday there are too many unknowns about CBD products to regulate them as foods or supplements under the agency’s current structure and called on Congress to create new rules for the massive and growing market. The marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods, while their […]
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Art rooted in the garden: Show explores Kahlo from new angle