With Labor Day, and the inevitable end of this glorious summer, just days away, I took advantage of Mother Nature's last blast of heat to head to The New York Botanical Garden and a virtual trip to Mexico! I'm referring to the NYBG's special exhibition "Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life" that explores the influence of horticulture on the art and life of this Mexican icon.
"Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird", 1940
Probably one of the most recognizable and revered artists of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo's (1907-1954) short and tumultuous life has become the stuff of legend. Thanks to innumerable books, articles, museum shows and even a biographical movie, Frida Kahlo's story is well known. But this is the first exhibition to take a look at her relationship with nature - specifically, how she incorporated flowers and plants into her work and life.
While the exhibition extends throughout the grounds of The Garden, the centerpiece of this show is in the landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Here visitors will find a recreation of Kahlo's garden at the Casa Azul (Blue House) the home she shared with her husband, Diego Rivera, outside of Mexico City. As well as the trademark blue and pink walls, the curators have lined the paths with trees and plants that would have been growing at Casa Azul and were often reproduced in Frida Kahlo's paintings, like this bougainvillea...
or Swiss cheese plant...
Anchoring the greenhouse part of the show is a recreation of the four-tiered pyramid that Kahlo and Rivera built to display his collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts.
There were also many examples of succulents and cactus in their garden which were not truly native Mexican plants but must have appealed to her Surrealist aesthetic.
A detailed replica of Kahlo's work table gives visitors a feeling for her creative process and is a nice personal touch.
Exiting the Conservatory, we pass by several beautiful waterlily ponds and along a "Poetry Walk" where sign boards with poetry inspired by Frida Kahlo are posted throughout the gardens. Eventually we came to the Mertz Library building where the art exhibition section of this show is on display.
Presented on several floors, this division of the show looks at the life and legacy of Kahlo and Rivera through art and artifacts. The ground floor's panel exhibition gives a biographical and historic perspective to the couple with a focus on their Mexican roots. The Rotunda features a specially commissioned installation by contemporary artist Humberto Spindola entitled "The Two Fridas", and the top floor is showing a small but very fine group of oils and works on paper by Frida Kahlo, including the iconic work "Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird" shown at the top.
Feeling a little peckish after all this Frida worship? The NYBG has thought of that too and a special Cantina has been set up near their excellent gift shop to serve Mexican food and drink! There are also special Frida Al Fresco Evenings with live music and extended hours. Altogether it turns a short train ride to the Bronx into a cultural event and a whole lot of fun!