Visiting Frida and Diego

Dear Liza,

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.

Diego, by Frida Kahlo

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.

Women with lilies, by Diego Rivera

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.

Self portrait by Frida Kahlo

I am glad we got to visit these interesting, talented people.


Grandma Judy

Back to PAM

Dear Liza,

It has been too long since we’ve visited the Portland Art Museum. Covid restrictions made it difficult to get reservations and it was almost frightening to be in the enclosed space with folks for a while. But yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I masked up, took the Magic Number 15, and went!

The museum is currently setting up two new shows, one about Queen Nefritari of Ancient Egypt and another on the Nabis, a group of French artists. This means that a lot of the museum was closed, but there was still a lot to see. The visit was a combination of visiting old friends and meeting new ‘faces.’

This tall, narrow painting, called ”Le Petit Patissier”, was painted by Chaim Soutine in 1921 and is one of my favorites in the whole museum. The title means ”The Little Baker.” Isn’t he cute?

Another favorite is an Alexander Calder mobile called “The Gong is a Moon”, which hangs above a collection of neon words that encourage action and engagement. Auntie Bridgett couldn’t stop looking at them. Me, either!

A new piece (to me) is ”Trois Enfants en Blue” by van Rysselberghe, painted in 1901. It is a pointillist piece, in that demanding style of tiny brush strokes of different colors that was made popular by Serrault. It is a portrait of three bored little girls and seems to shimmer.

The last piece I’m going to tell you about is another new one. These ”Penny Loafers” (yes, loafers made out of pennies!!) were made by Sonya Clark in 2010.

It’s not very often you get to see puns in an art museum.

And that’s all for now!


Grandma Judy

Yes, Portland

Dear Liza,

Three years ago, we moved to Portland. We came for its urban culture and forested parks, the wide Willamette crossed by soaring bridges, and for Auntie Katie and the cousins.

Soaring bridges…

We found all those things, and more. And even in the pandemic shut down, there is a lot of city to enjoy.

Silly family….
Adorable art….

PAM, the art museum, is a feast for the eyes and spirit, just a walk away. Attendance is limited to keep folks safe, but the art there can carry you away for a while.

Art isn’t just in the museums, either. It is everywhere, bright and outspoken.

Art where you least expect it….

The parks are still wonderful places filled with hundred year old trees, ditzy squirrels, and flowers.

Incredible views and forested parks…

Our city has gotten a bad rap, lately. Mr. Trump says we have been “in flames for decades.” He is lying. Our nightly demonstrations in a few blocks of downtown make him nervous, is all. They show we will stand up to police brutality and racial injustice.

And they are as much a part of what I love about Portland as the museums and the forests. I am glad to be a part of it.


Grandma Judy