Exhibit 'Frida Kahlo—Her Photos' presents window into life of renowned artist

The traveling exhibit "Frida Kahlo—Her Photos" has been making its way to galleries worldwide before making its first-ever stop in the Southwest at the Heard Museum. Begun as an exhibit at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City, it has made its way all over Europe and a few places in the U.S., with future stops planned.

Heard Museum usually only has to prepare for one big event a year. This year looks to be different, as the museum's latest exhibit "Frida Kahlo—Her Photos," has proven to be much more popular than expected. Accompanying the headliner is local exhibit "Las Favoritas de Frida: Selections from the Heard Collection," which seeks to reveal a more domestic, personal side to her life.

Janet Cantley, a curator at Heard Museum, expressed gratitude over the exploding popularity of Kahlo's work.

"We’ve been a little surprised." Cantley said. "We're getting prepared for a crowd ... It's a nice little problem."

The new exhibit at Heard Museum highlights the more personal aspects of Kahlo's life and gives the onlooker a unique look into the life of this varied artist. The exhibit collects 240 hand-picked photos from Kahlo's personal collection of more than 6,500, and includes some with notations, cut-outs and folds.

Split up into six different sections, the exhibit hopes to give viewers a well-rounded understanding of Kahlo through focused looks at different aspects of her life. 

One section, "The Origins," emphasizes her family with portraits of and by her father, Guillermo Kahlo, a notable photographer in his own right and Frida's introduction to the world of photography and art. 

Another section, "Her Broken Body," explores the long and numerous periods of her life spent hospitalized. Perhaps most striking was how some photos featured white squares where the face of the person should be; an example of the authorial hand of Kahlo on her photos. In one particular photo of Kahlo and her ex-husband Diego Rivera, Cantley points out how the photo had been folded in half, hiding the offending paramour from sight.

At times, Kahlo would write revealing personal notes on the backs of her photographs. In such cases, the exhibit displays copies of the back of the photograph along with the front, side by side for context. One such photograph of Pierre de Lanux conceals two kiss marks on the back.

In "Politics, Revolution and Diego," Kahlo's communist politics are on full display. Avid supporters of Lenin and Stalin throughout their lives, Rivera and Kahlo even offered a stay at their home, known as 'La Casa Azul,' or the Blue House, to Communist revolutionary and then-refugee Leon Trotsky in Mexico City. 

Many of the photographs also highlight the social milieu in which Kahlo lived, with various photographs of famous people. In fact, the Blue House was a social hub for many famed revolutionaries, poets, and artists during the 1930s and 40s. 

Cantley also discussed the inspiration for the Heard's companion exhibit "Las Favoritas de Frida," Spanish for 'Frida's Favorites.'

This exhibit brings out many pieces of the Heard's own collection, curated by devoted art collective the Phoenix Fridas to sculpt an intimate portrait of Kahlo's personal life and tastes. It includes clothing, pottery and art pieces, such as tapestries, used in the actual homes of Kahlo during her life.

Overall, the dual exhibits provide an all-encompassing view into the life of one of the 20th century's greatest artists.

The exhibit opened to the public on Halloween with a reception that featured a live DJ and a "special" pet parade. It runs through Feb. 8 at the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix. For more information click here.

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Reach the reporter at lsaether@asu.edu or follow @looooogaaan on Twitter.

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