Frida Fiesta
Loop North News

Chicago Traveler
Historic Frida Kahlo exhibition opens at McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage.

22-Jun-21 – Not even a pandemic could cancel a major exhibition about the life and art of internationally lauded Frida Kahlo.

Frida Kahlo: Timeless is now open at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art and McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. The one-of-a-kind exhibition is the largest and most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work in the Chicago area in more than 40 years.

Planned and promoted for the summer of 2020, the exhibition had to be postponed because of pandemic restrictions against social gatherings. Fortunately, Kahlo’s paintings and drawings, on loan from the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Xochimilco, near Mexico City, were available to the college for 2021.

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist best known for her colorful, symbolic self-portraits highlighting themes of identity, politics, sexuality, and death. Born in 1907, she suffered most of her life from serious health issues including polio at age six and a bus accident as a teen that broke her spinal column and impaled her pelvis with a steel rod. While bedridden, she began to paint.

Photo by Clare Britt

(Left) Re-creation of the canopy bed from which Frida Kahlo painted while recuperating from her many surgeries and illnesses. Also on view are re-imaginings of three rigid orthotic corsets like the ones she was forced to endure. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

Despite her many challenges, she became an outspoken champion for female empowerment, individual courage, and Mexican pride. She twice married muralist Diego Rivera, whose large-scale work often overshadowed hers until after her death in 1954.

Frida Kahlo: Timeless features a 26-piece collection of paintings and drawings spanning Kahlo’s early life through her death. Among the iconic works are The Broken Column (1944), in which Kahlo shows herself with an exposed, shattered spine, and her skin is punctured repeatedly with nails. Others are Portrait of Luther Burbank (1931), Henry Ford Hospital (1932), and Self-Portrait with Small Monkey (1945).

(Right) Portrait of Luther Burbank, a horticulturist who grew unusual vegetable and fruit hybrids.

Photo by Clare Britt

Alongside the original works are a multimedia timeline marking the intersections of Kahlo’s life and world events, and a gallery of more than 100 photographic images.

Known for her artwork and fashion choices

Frida Kahlo attired herself in the colorful traditional dress of the Tehuana, a matriarchal society characterized by floor-length ruffled skirts, embroidered blouses, and elaborate hair accessories of ribbon and flora. So striking was her appearance that her image appeared in Vogue magazine more than once.

Photo by Clare Britt
(Above) Exact replica dresses from Kahlo’s wardrobe, on display at the exhibition.

Other exhibition attractions to explore

• Frida Kahlo Garden. On the south patio of the McAninch Arts Center (affectionately known as “the Mac”) is a cheerful horticultural display of flowers, shrubs, cacti, and other plants that are indigenous to Mexico or depicted in Kahlo’s artwork. Others grow in the garden of her longtime home, La Casa Azul (The Blue House), now a museum in Mexico City.

Photo by Pamela Dittmer McKuen

(Left) Frida Kahlo Garden. Photo by Pamela Dittmer McKuen.

• Tres Frida Project: Re-imagining Art Through the Disability Lens. Inspired by Kahlo’s perseverance through pain and physical limitation, three female Chicago artists with disabilities insert themselves into recreations of famous paintings from art history and popular culture. Their strength is palpable with appearances in Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Edgar Degas’ The Dance Lesson, J. Howard Miller’s We Can Do It Rosie the Riveter poster of World War II, and others.

• Kahlo Kids’ Corner. Decked out in happy jewel tones, the family-friendly activity and learning room beckons visitors with a display of traditional Mexican dolls, interactive art projects, and an animated video about Frida Kahlo’s life.

Frida Kahlo: Timeless runs daily through September 6, 2021. Audio tours are available for rent. Hours are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. except Thursdays, when the exhibition is open until 10:00 p.m. McAninch Arts Center and Cleve Carney Museum of Art at College of DuPage are located at 425 Fawell Boulevard in Glen Ellyn.

Art on theMART celebrates iconic Frida

In addition to the exhibition at The Mac, a new digital art program featuring several of Kahlo’s most recognizable works will be projected this summer onto the river-facing side of theMART.

The program will be accompanied by Mexican contemporary orchestral composition Danzó No. 2 by Arturo Marquez, performed and recorded by the New Philharmonic, The Mac’s resident professional orchestra. It will run nightly July 5, Kahlo’s birthday eve, through September 16 at 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Art on theMART is best experienced for free from the Jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells and Franklin Streets.

 More information: Frida Kahlo: Timeless

Photos by Clare Britt, provided by Cleve Carney Museum of Art, except where noted.

By Pamela Dittmer McKuen | Loop North News | pmckuen@gmail.com

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