There has been an exhibit at our Portland Art Museum that we have been meaning to get to for months. It is called ‘Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism’. This past Friday, we took the bus downtown for our visit.
Our timing was not the best, sadly. Being nearly the last day of school for local high school kids, field trips were out in force and our normally quiet museum was loud and crowded. The teacher in me loved it and appreciated hearing the kids talk about the art; the retired lady in me just wanted them to go home.
We were introduced to the Frida Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera, in a mural being painted by local artists. Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist ( 1907-1954) was just 22 when she married the much older Diego Rivera (1886-1957) for the first time. (Yes, they got married, divorced, the re-married. It’s complicated.)
He was already an established artist and becoming internationally known. She was just starting out and for a few years was known mostly as ‘Diego’s wife’.
But her style was amazing, and she developed as an artist as the couple became more active in social justice causes in Mexico. They fought for political change after the Mexican Revolution, and social change, so workers could be more fairly treated. They used their power for good, as Auntie Bridgett likes to say.
Frida had suffered multiple injuries in a trolley crash as a young girl, and had many surgeries and years in bed trying to get well. She spent much of her time in bed painting on a special easel her father had made.
The exhibit featured lots of photographs of Frida and Diego, placing them at the center of the Mexican Modernism art movement. But for me, Frida is the most fascinating. Her sometimes-painfully honest way of putting her thoughts and feelings on canvas is like therapy, letting her sadness out and coming to terms with her difficult marriage to Diego. Their relationship was a series of changes as they tried to find a way to be with each other while staying true to themselves.
I am glad we got to visit these interesting, talented people.