Art love: Frida and Diego

29 Dec

I got down to the Frida and Diego exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario last night. It was a great exhibition. I don’t think anyone paints suffering like Kahlo does. I was struck again how different it is to be in a room with the real paintings. Not just the texture and details; there is something (to get a little flaky) about the energy of being with the same material the artist actually held and breathed over and shaped. For me books and prints are great, but there is a vast leap to the real thing.

I also really liked Lola Alvarez Bravo’s portraits.

I have a thing for women in different time periods who were not afraid to really be themselves: Passionate, hungry, artists. Frida Kahlo focused on herself, her body and her suffering and was still acknowledged at the time as an important artist.  And yet, I don’t remember having discussed her once in high school (in university I didn’t take art, so I will give them a pass).

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera shrine at the AGO exhibit

Frida and Diego are dead (exhibit at the AGO)

One of Kahlo’s later works shows her portrait with a portrait of Rivera on her forehead. The notes said that she was portraying her increasing obsession with him towards the end of her life. I have such mixed feelings about that. In some ways I think the mutually supportive artistic marriage is almost an ideal, for me, support and creativity and love and passion and fire all together. It seems in some ways like theirs was as good as it gets, even with the divorce-remarriage and all.

And yet, another part of my brain thinks she was so young when they met, and that her obsession with him — that our obsessions with our spouses and lovers — is something women in general need to get over. I suppose it’s that second-wave feminist ideal, that a real woman is independent, slightly cynical, and a little removed. And then I had to laugh, because Kahlo was so successful in expressing who she was, taking herself and what was close to her as her focus and bringing it to the fore as quote-unquote legitimate art. Who am I to worry about it? And why can’t you have both?

I’ve been married a long long time and if I were in increasing pain I would probably want the people I love around me.

But I still had to walk away from that painting with Rivera placed in the middle of her forehead like a Buddha eye. It was too raw.

It was not just good art, but a good exhibition, because that was the point: To have Kahlo and Rivera’s art together and use their relationship as the lens.


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