The Art of Recovery, Part II: Inspiration from Frida Kahlo’s Garden Path

By Glenda Rice Collins   (Updated October 13, 2019)

Bartlesville, Okla., USA — The journey back from illness,  physical injuries, and any of life’s temporary setbacks, can be overwhelming with new demands and limitations; or at times, uplifting, if we remember to ‘stop and smell (and perhaps re-arrange) the roses,’ despite the thorns! Frida Kahlo’s Garden, on view at the Price Tower Arts Center through October 20, 2019, provides new inspiration for a life well-lived with nature, and focus beyond pain.  

Admission to this exhibition is free to the public, Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.  

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A small ofrenda, or altar, pays tribute to Kahlo, in the spirit of Dia de los Muertos.

IMG_1355“Dias de los Muertos in the Gallery” will be featured on October 15, from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. with free admission at the Price Tower Arts Center. Special Frida Events sponsors include: Oklahoma Arts Council, Visit Bartlesville Oklahoma, Arvest Bank, and PioneerDream.

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) is considered one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. Her body of work, consisting of some 250 paintings and drawings, is at once intensely personal and universal in scope and relies heavily on the natural world. 

 

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Frida Kahlo’s 1931 Portrait of Luther Burbank, shown in this exhibited reproduction, is provided courtesy of Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, Mexico. The work reflects Kahlo’s studies in Mexican positivism values, and aspects of botany and nature.

As the former monk, writer, philosopher, and arts advocate, Thomas Moore, reminds us in the timeless New York Times bestseller, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, “A garden can’t be defined adequately in plain, physical terms, because (it) is a place in the imagination…We find it sometimes in a patch of vegetables or in an arrangement of plants, trees, and flowers. The great gardens of the world may not conjure up the eternal Eden nearly as effectively as a small grouping of bushes and flowers in your own backyard…few products of human creativity have as much magic.” 

Frida Kahlo’s Garden, as evidenced in the current exhibition  provided such a magical place of refuge and inspiration for the gifted Mexican artist who suffered more than her share of personal injuries during her lifetime. Burnished in spirit by enduring such “fire” she forged a unique identity drawn from many dimensions of her native culture and heritage, becoming a work of art, herself.

“Kahlo today inhabits international culture at variable points on a sliding scale between sainthood and a brand,” wrote Peter Schieldahl, in his 2015 Native Soil feature for The New Yorker.

Kahlo’s Haven & Personal Sanctuary

For Kahlo, her garden paradise became much more than a patch for plantings, having also evolved to include, not only beautiful specimens of fruits and blossoms, — including  tropical bougainvillea and symbolic dahlias to adorn her flamboyant, crown-braid  hairstyles — but also an abundant collection of folk art, along with parrots, and animals-in-residence, such as hairless Mexican dogs and lively monkeys. In this unique haven, a la menagerie, she painted, taught, and entertained with assurance, as a strong woman, well ahead of her time.

From these surroundings, and her own determination to set high standards from her advanced patriotic, political and nationalist beliefs, Kahlo’s visions, influenced by her early studies of Mexican Positivism,  produced original paintings inspired by her own advanced intellect and studious observations. Her unique journey, through severe physical injuries in her youth, was later influenced by worldly artistic realms and travels, as the wife of the renowned Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera.

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Kahlo’s signature clothing and jewelry made a visible statement about her Mexican identity and indigenous roots, although she addressed themes of hybridity, or mixed cultures, in her art. Her father was born in Germany; her mother born of indigenous and Spanish descent.

Kahlo appears, in images, to have reveled in the thriving arts and culture era of Post-Mexican Revolution Mexico City. often attired in garments of historical significance. She was photographed, many times by her famed lover — the Hungarian-born American photographer, Nickolas Muray, who pioneered color portrait photography — at her beloved residence, Casa Azul, and beyond. 

The Guest Curator travelling exhibition, Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray, seen at Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum in 2016, is scheduled for exhibition June 20, 2020 through September 27, 2020 at the Catalina Island Museum, Avalon, CA, with new materials added, according to the Guest Curator website. (See a related feature article, and view Muray’s saturated color, iconic Frida images on this website, at the following  link: https://glendaricecollins.com/2016/09/09/last-call-frida-kahlo-exhibition-ends-sunday-at-gilcrease-museum-tres-vidas-pays-musical-tribute-tomorrow/).

Credits: Images of the current Frida Kahlo’s Garden exhibit reproductions are provided by courtesy of the Price Tower Arts Center and the Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Photos by Glenda Rice Collins.

This exhibition is made possible by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the HumanitiesFrida Kahlo’s Garden is adapted from the exhibition, FRIDA KAHLO: ART, GARDEN, LIFE, organized by guest curator Adriana Zavala at The New York Botanical Garden. It was made possible with major funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Karen Katen Foundation, The LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, MetLife Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and Gillian and Robert Steel. It was adapted and toured for NEH on the Road by the Mid-America Arts Alliance.

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