It’s been a great delight to be able to reflect on the Spring Exhibition, and although there are some other coming related events (Summer Madness Group Exhibition at Moet Farm-Bedfordshire), I am already thinking on my next project, titled Frida and Me. As a female Latin American artist I have been interested in the work of this amazing Mexican painter, her life and her way of expressing her identity are huge influences in my work. In fact, from some years ago I have created some paintings with her image: from memory, as a graphic statement, or as a digital image. Somehow Frida has given me the opportunity to explore and to expand my own horizons as an artist. It is a sort of comfort painting, a place/image that makes me feel at ease, in the sense of being able to experiment and to dialogue.
I’ve been drawing upon photographs of Frida (taken by others, mostly by her lover Nick Murray), rather than her own self-portraits. My best painting to date: Frida in Orange, was inspired by a post card sent by my adorable friend Ana Maria Carreira (Art Historian and collector of Colonial & Folk art), and it was acquired by music promoter and academic Prof. Jo Brewis, and it connects two main topics in Frida’s work: her own image and identity, and the rootedness of her work, firmly grounded to the Mexican land, its identity, its myths and religions. In this painting, for instance, I’ve recreated the halo of Virgen de Guadalupe, the radiating light of a holy image. As I am myself devoted to Frida, this is very appropriate. So for my next exhibition at the Art Nest and as part of the Hitchin Festival, my friend and gallerist Emmeline Webb invited me to show some paintings in a first exhibition titled “Frida and Me.”
Encouraged by this invitation, I decided to experiment with oil painting. Guided by the magnificent lessons of portraitist Lesley Longworth, I started a couple of portraits, rather different from my own signature style (more pics soon) and I am delighted with the whole process of learning and pushing my own boundaries (see previous blog Drunk on Turpentine). However, I have not been able to continue at the pace I wish due to a number of commitments, including the exhibition itself and my recent travel to my birth land Colombia, and its capital Bogota! I thought, it would be a great opportunity to re-think what is Frida for me, and the universe is actually responding!
Bogota, at 2600 meters high, it’s a city of contrast. High in the mountains it has a evergreen feeling, which contrast with the orange brick constructions of main buildings… but the traffic is absolutely chaotic.
Yesterday I took a taxi to get me to town to visit my dear friend Ana Maria Carreira, and the taxi offered a number of “magazines” for people to browse. In one of those magazines I found an article about the “Unknown Pictures of Frida Kahlo”, as taken by Gisele Freund, one of the few female photographers of the Magnum Photo group (with Robert Capa and Henri Cartier -Bresson). In 1950, Gisele was invited by Frida Kahlo and her husband the great muralist Diego Rivera to take some candid pictures of their life in Coyoacan, Mexico. Gisele Freund died in 2000 and 14 years later, the french publishers Albin Michel and the Institute Memories de l’Edition Contemporaine (IMEC) collected the images of the legendary couple taken by Gisele’s Leica camera . I asked the driver if he would sell the magazine and for a very small price he gave me such a treasure! When I met Ana Maria we decided to go to the exhibition of William Kentridge at Banco de la Republica. The South African artist presented a number of drawings used for animations, these are striking black and white, ink/charcoal on paper that recreate a world of greediness and despair, eroticism and tragedy, and I thought, I could also bring my own black and white raw drawings/self portraits dealing with depression and stress! Another good idea for my exhibition.
The golden sunset falls over the city at the top of the mountains, and it is a magical moment. The streets in the old neighbourhood of La Candelaria were heaving with hundred of young people wishing to attend a public concert of the controversial band Calle Trece, and the spirit of music and party was in the air. We walked to the Centro Cultural Gabriel Garcia Marquez to visit the excellent library of the Fondo de Cultura Economica. Apart of the many excellent titles, we found a treasure: Frida’s Photos, in collaboration with Museo Frida Kahlo and edited by Pablo Ortiz Monasterio. It is organised around seven different topics: Origins, Dad, Casa Azul, Broken Body, Lovers, Photography, and Political Struggle. The pictures are to die for: a generous archive of her childhood days, her family, her friends, lovers, many unidentified persons (!) and in general, a great testimony of the life of this amazing woman. We browse it all in the bookshop and finally bought it.
Coming back in the hub-bub of the city we talked about the idea of the exhibition. Initially my idea is to play with key themes in Frida’s life following her acrostic:
D-Death and Diego
(I will develop this later)…
Anyway, we got home and Ana Maria decided to show me some old beautiful pictures of her first wedding in Mexico. It was in 1984 and she was actually living in the area of Coyoacan, near Frida’s Casa Azul! The pictures were amazing: Ana Maria dressed in a white traditional Mexican costume, her lovely face as a young Kate Bush (more beautiful of course!), the ceremony in the registry office (adorned by murals), the stroll in the park with the doves, the pictures in the city with friends and fountains…. Soon after, many other bunches of photographs revealed the richness of Ana Maria’s life: there we found her time as a child, her parents, her big family of brothers and sisters, her time as a girl going to school, or as a young student of Architecture at Universidad de Buenos Aires, to the time she came to Colombia around 1994 to do her Masters Degree in Development, and then 1995 when we met while working at the University. Oh my god… I had completely forgotten about some of the pictures, specially those taken in the flat we used to share, our travels in the Caribbean, or that unforgettable hot summer in Buenos Aires… it was hilarious… we laughed so much about ourselves, and were wondering what happened to those young ladies?
But most funny of all was actually to realise that Frida and her photos triggered the trip to Memory Lane and how this is so relevant for my new exhibition. Indeed I should make one titled Ana and Me (although somebody took the title, Anita and Me) but this is the way to acknowledge the beautiful and unique influence of Ana Maria in my life: as a friend, colleague, confident, rescuer, travel pal, advisor, creator, and laughing chum!
I love you Ana Maria Carreira, in memory of many things….