Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life with a Disability

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, featured in the "Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life" exhibition

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, featured in the “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” exhibition

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The Broken Column, one of Frida’s powerful pieces addressing her disability (not featured in this exhibition)

While in NYC I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the New York Botanical Gardens in The Bronx and experience “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” – a spectacular exhibition featuring gardens based on and inspired by her studio and work, as well as a selection of original paintings and drawings. I have always admired Frida Kahlo, as one of only a few artists with disabilities to receive proper recognition for her accomplishments. Much of Frida’s work, including her self-portraits and drawing of a miscarriage that appeared in the exhibition, grew out of her experience as a woman with a disability. She survived childhood polio, and was severely injured in a bus accident as a young woman. She endured numerous surgeries, wore painful and restrictive braces for months at a time, and was often confined to bed, where she would use a mirror to see and paint herself. Despite her struggles, she traveled to many exhibitions of her work, sometimes on a stretcher. She had a tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, and many affairs with men and women. She lived life to the fullest, and left us an amazing legacy. 

 

Miscarriage, a heartbreaking drawing featured in the exhibition

Miscarriage, a heartbreaking drawing featured in the exhibition

The NYBG exhibit features replicas of Frida Kahlo’s studio and gardens at her home, La Casa Azul, including a depiction of her desk, with paint at the ready. It felt as if she had just stepped away for a moment, her spirit lingering in the air. The greenhouses feature many stunning plants, their bright colors evoking the colorful lives of Frida and Diego. There was much to explore in all the gardens, with a new surprise around every corner. Live music from a Mexican band, and surprising tasty tacos from a food truck added to the ambiance. 

The approximately 12 Kahlo paintings and drawings were housed in a separate gallery a short walk away. This was the only portion of the experience that I found disappointing. While her works were stunning, the gallery was small and very crowded. The pieces were “protected” by a thin rope barrier; an irritating beep would sound if someone’s foot accidentally went too far past this poorly defined line, which happened numerous times during my brief time in the gallery. A hostile security guard constantly interrupted any attempt at peaceful pondering of the works with repetitive warnings about the rules (no photography, etc.) and berating everyone in the gallery when someone set off the warning beeps. While I understand that these valuable works must be protected, the experience stands in sharp contrast to The Met, which holds numerous priceless pieces, but permits non-flash photography and has unobtrusive security systems and friendly guards.

Despite the negative energy in the gallery, I feel extremely fortunate to have experienced this exhibit and seen the works of one of my favorite artists in person. In areas where photos were allowed, I captured some amazing images to share. As you can see, I dressed in Frida-inspired attire, and I’m very pleased with the look!

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“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” -Frida Kahlo

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“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” -Frida Kahlo

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

“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the train, the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.” - Frida Kahlo

“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the train, the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.” – Frida Kahlo

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“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” – Frida Kahlo

“I love you more than my own skin and even though you don’t love me the same way, you love me anyways, don’t you? And if you don’t, I’ll always have the hope that you do, and I’m satisfied with that. Love me a little. I adore you.” - Frida Kahlo

“I love you more than my own skin and even though you don’t love me the same way, you love me anyways, don’t you? And if you don’t, I’ll always have the hope that you do, and I’m satisfied with that. Love me a little. I adore you.” – Frida Kahlo

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“I paint flowers so they will not die.” -Frida Kahlo

 

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