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  • Andrea Juarez

Calgary, the first Canadian city to exhibit Frida Kahlo’s personal photographs

Frida Kahlo in the Blue House in 1930. (Anonymous)

Starting Feb. 3 until May 21, the Glenbow Museum will exhibit a series of approximately 250 photos of the famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.

Being the first Canadian city to have this exhibition with the photographs Kahlo collected throughout her life is an advantage, says Jenny Conway, Marketing and Communications Manager at Glenbow Museum.

“The exhibition has been shown in New Zealand, Europe, and the U.S. but never in Canada. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to show it,” Conway said.

“When we announced the exhibition, a lot of people got really excited. It pretty much proved that Frida is an icon around the world.”

When Frida Kahlo died, her husband, lauded Mexican artist Diego Rivera locked away all her belongings in their house in Mexico City, La Casa Azul, and turned it into a museum. However, no one had been able to see Kahlo’s personal belongings.

The images exhibited at the Glenbow Museum, which is owned by the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City, are part of a 6,500-photograph collection found by a museum staff member in a bathroom of La Casa Azul in 2007, 50 years after Rivera died.

Mexican curator Pablo Ortiz went through all the pictures and put together a story using approximately 250 photographs to illustrate Kahlo’s life.

“People are fascinated by her but certainly don’t know much about her person,“ Conway said.

“She collected photos that were important to her. Her father was a photographer so she grew up feeling that photographs were artworks and personal objects to treasure.”

Conway said Ortiz put the show in different sections: people that Kahlo loved, her family, and herself. As a child, Kahlo contracted polio and was involved in a life-threatening bus accident at the age of 18.

“She wore braces and corsets to keep her body whole. In her paintings, you can see that she was truthful about her personal experience," Conway added.

The exhibition includes photographs by Kahlo and creative luminaries like Man Ry, Martin Munkacsi, Tina Modotti, Edward Weston, and others.

Conway said the exhibition shows how honest Kahlo was about her experiences.

“In some ways, she had a difficult but also an aspirational life because she lived to the fullest.

Conway said the star power of Kahlo’s name and the pop culture relevance she holds in the world will make the exhibition popular.

“I hope that when the spectators get in here, they are drawn into the intimacy of her world.

“It’s not a flashy show. Photographs are small but when you get personal photographs and stories, it’s another piece of this fascinating story.

Conway said this exhibition differentiates itself from the rest.

“Some art exhibitions, you come and it’s visually interesting but maybe doesn’t make you feel anything.

“This one, because it’s such a story-based thing, people will respond to it.”

“There’s so much richness in these tiny images ”

For many, Kahlo is an inspiring representation about what’s possible.

“She was a woman who was bisexual, outspoken, and an artist in a conservative Catholic country where not many women were heard in a way images are heard," Conway said.

“I think the stories that are held in these photographs really add to that and enhance an understanding of why she’s so famous and popular."

If there’s anybody to be inspired by, it’s Frida Kahlo.


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