Greater Tulsa Reporter
Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray continues through Sept. 11, at Gilcrease Museum, and is a must-see for art aficionados.
Some 50 photographic portraits of Kahlo, dating from 1937 to 1946, explore Muray’s unique perspective as her friend, lover, and confidant.
Considered to be one of Mexico’s greatest and most prolific artists, Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) began painting during the recovery phase after being severely injured in a bus accident at age 18.
As a political activist, she later married fellow communist artist Diego Rivera, the famed muralist, who was 21 years her senior, in 1929.
Kahlo’s mystique is undeniable and enduring, the intriguing ‘je ne sais quoi’ unrelenting.
In a July 13, 2016, The New York Times Not Forgotten obituary tribute commemorating the 62nd anniversary of Kahlo’s death, the headline references “Frida Kahlo, Whose Self-Portraits Spoke to the Soul.”
According to the Times article, her self-portraiture style of wearing the floor-length skirts of Tehuana clothing, “also allowed Kahlo to conceal her damaged leg, a result of (childhood) polio. It was amputated later in life…Her signature unibrow and her wispy mustache were in some ways a rebuke to conventional standards of beauty.”
Kahlo’s evocative self-portraits often connect viewers with her lifelong personal pain. Muray’s photos expose her fortitude to be her own flamboyant person.
Many colorfully-draped and floral-festooned Frida images by Muray celebrate her as an amazing, artistic creation of her own design: see Frida in Pink and Green Blouse (1938) and Frida with Olmeca Figurine (1939), both carbon process prints, Coyoacán. A contrasted Frida, her neck pierced and bloodied from thorns, gives pause for her 1940 Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird painting image exhibiting the raw, universal pain of lost love.
Kahlo is said to have painted the powerful image of herself at the same age, 33, that Christ was crucified.
Also notable is Muray’s gelatin silver print of Kahlo’s 1939 The Two Fridas oil painting, showing her two personalities – before and after her painful divorce that year. Muray has captured it all for posterity in print.
Photographer Nickolas Muray
The Hungarian Nickolas Muray (1892-1965), a successful New York fashion and commercial photographer, met Frida, his most inspiring model, during a 1931 Mexico vacation.
Having already pioneered highly saturated color photography techniques for celebrities, socialites and artists, Muray found his most colorful subject in Kahlo.
As his most photographed subject, Kahlo became uniquely recognized in popular culture, via a variety of media. Familiar photos of Frida with her pet eagle, monkeys, ancient sculpture and posed in brilliantly colorful Mexican attire, are enduringly iconic, still popular on mugs, stickers, aprons, posters and prints.
Muray’s Frida leaning on a sculpture by Mardonio Magaña, Coyoacán1940, a digital pigment print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag paper, captures Kahlo wearing the unique, hand-shaped Picasso earrings which she received as a gift during her visit to Paris. While there, one of Kahlo’s small self-portraits was purchased by the Louvre.
A Woman of Ambivalence
Ironically, when Frida suffered the loss of Diego through divorce, she is said to have had no intention to marry “Nick.”
Among large photographic prints of her personal letters to Nick is one dated May 31,1931, in which she included, with the original, a photo of herself holding hands with her spouse, Rivera. She signed the same note with the imprint of a kiss from her own lips, then sent it to her paramour. Muray and Kahlo remained friends and confidants until her death in 1954.
This traveling exhibition has been organized through the Nickolas Muray Archives and is circulated by GuestCurator Traveling Exhibitions located in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Title sponsor of the Gilcrease Museum 2016 exhibition season is the Sherman E. Smith Family Charitable Foundation. Generous support is also provided by: Mervin Bovaird
Based on the lives of three legendary Latin American women: Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Salvadoran peasant activist Rufina Amaya and Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni, the show features diverse popular and folk songs of Mexico, El Salvador and Argentina. Cost is $8 for museum members, $10 for not-yet members.
For additional details and updates, please visit www.gilcrease.org.