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Frida Kahlo- Sugar skulls

Updated on May 28, 2015

The New York Botanical Gardens- Frida Kahlo's Garden 2015 Exhibition

Incorporating folk art objects, religious imagery and animals was intrinsic to Frida Kahlo's style of painting.

The use of organic nature, plants, flowers and fruits was the foundation and frame of many of her iconic works of art.

A new exhibition at The New York Botanical Gardens (May 16th- November 2015) seeks to explore this side of her work.

Twelve of her paintings and a selection of drawings are on display there.

Surrounded by the species of plants that are featured in her artworks.

,This is the first Exhibition to celebrate the skill of Frida Kahlo's botanical art.


Frida Kahlo Quote

"I used to think I was the strangest person in the World, there must be someone just like me.

Who feels bizarre and flawed in the same way I do.

I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there, thinking of me too."


Frida Kahlo Biography

Frida Kahlo was born on the 6th of July, but she used to say she was born on the 10th of July because Mexico rose up in revolution against the Diaz on that date.

Frida Kahlo was born in the Blue House which she would live in for most of her life.

She grew up with a close extended family around her. Frida Kahlo would always remain strongly connected to Mexico and her roots.

Her mother was Mexican and her father was of Jewish descent.

Frida wore traditional Mexican Tehuana costume, she wore votive jewellery and braided her hair and clothes with ribbons and materials.

On the 17th of September 1925 Frida Kahlo was in intensive care after being involved in a tram/bus collision. She had been travelling home with her boyfriend Alexjandro Gomez Arias. I t took many months of care for Frida to even begin the process of regaining mobility.

During this time Frida Kahlo began to paint. She painted a beautiful portrait of Alexjandro during this time, but he drifted away and his visits dwindled to nothing.

Frida endured many hours of solitary time and often painted lying on her back or propped up with pillows.

Her artwork came from her pain both physical and emotional. It described and expressed her inner core fears and reflects them back at us. Frida's mirrors. Her self portraits tell her life and story.

In 1922 Frida Kahlo was attending school. She had her first glimpse of Diego Riveria who had been commisioned to paint murals there.

Frida Kahlo was an active Communist supporter. In 1928 she joined the Mexican Communist Party and there again met Diego Rivera.

They married in 1929. The wedding celebrations were quite strained Frida's parents were not happy with the match. Lupes Marin a lover of Diegos, lifted up Fridas skirts and exposed her leg. One was mis-shapen from polio Frida had suffered with as a child.

"That's what Diego is going to have to put up with now and he used to have my legs" Marin declared, poor Frida.

In 1930 the couple moved to America. Diego Rivera had been given commissions there.

Frida felt isolated from her beloved Mexico and this was reflected in her paintings of that time. In the painting of My dress is hanging there. Frida Kahlo depicts herself separated from her Tehuana Dress. It is hanging out of reach,in a landscape of iconic westernised buildings. They both had affairs during this time.

Frida Kahlo longed for children and attempted to carry full term whilst in America. None of them were successful pregnanies. She painted heratbreaking images giving birth to them in paint, marking and expressing her deep sorrow.

Her mother died during this period also adding to Frida Kahlo's isolation.

After returning to Mexico in 1933 the couple were very stormy with one another. Diego had lost his membership as a Communist member to work in America, he had not wanted to return to Mexico at that point. Frida was on the other hand estatic and happy to return.

Diego had an affair with Frida Kahlo's sister in 1934. Frida was beside herself with grief and painted A few little slashes of a dagger in response.

in 1937 Frida Kahlo had an affair with Leon Trotsky.

Frida Kahlo gained interest and travelled to Europe where her paintings were exhibited at the Renou & Colle Gallery at a major Surealist Exhibition.

She also had exhibitions in New York.

In 1953 Frida Kahlo's work was organised and displayed by Lola Alvarez Bravo Organisation.

In Mexico. The determined artist was present at the very successful Opening night. Frida Kahlo was carried upon her bed so she could be present.

Viva la vida

"I paint self portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best" Quote Frida Kahlo

"I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint whatever passes through my head without consideration" Quote Frida Kahlo

The Sunflower Painting

In August 1953 Frida Kahlo developed gangrene in her right leg and Doctors decieded to amputate it below her knee. During this time her husband Diego Rivera also had an affair.

Frida Kahlo had prolonged hospital stays and grew very depressed. She also relied heavily on medication and alcohol as painkillers. She had over thirty operations in her lifetime. In an attempt to correct her spine.

This was from near fatal bus and tram collision she had suffered in 1925, as she travelled home with her first love Alejandro.

During Spring 1954 Frida Kahlo was commisioned by a patron to paint a self portrait. It was called "Self portrait in a landscape with sunflower".

It was one of Frida Kahlo's last works of art.

The image depicted a rocky outcrop in a flat landscape. Frida Kahlo painted her full figure in Tehuana dress off centre. Her head is at an angle and from her face radiates burnt oranges and yellows of a sunflower. The large flower almost looks like it is on fire in a final radiance.

Her friend Tibol saw the painting and quotes

"Everything was positive, it was radiantly seductive and emotional."

Tibol came to the realisation that Frida was overwhelmed by the vitality of herself in the painting compared with her real ebbing health.

She remarked that "It looked like she was choking in the sunflower". Her companion watched as Frida slowly began scratching at the painting with a knife.

"I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint" Quote Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo completely destroyed the Sunflower painting.

Sunflower halo

On July 2nd Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera attended a Solidarity demonstration.

This was against her doctors orders. Frida had suffered with recurring pneumonia and had been warned to stay in bed.

"I sense I will be leaving you soon." Quote Frida Kahlo

That night Frida Kahlo died at the age of 47, in the Blue House.

Diego Rivera was beside himself with grief and would not believe she was dead

"When I loved a woman. I wanted to hurt her the more I loved her. Frida was the most evident victim of this despicable character trait of mine" Quote Diego Rivera

Her body lay in state at the Palacio de Belles Arte. Many people came to pay their respects.

At noon the next day many mourners followed the funeral parade in the rain. Most of them could not fit into the church and attended outside in the wet.

Diego wept openly and as the iron bier with Kahlo's body on it was shoved into the fire.

An unusual thing happened. Her body was lifted upright, and the flames burned her hair. It glowed like a fiery halo. Just like in the Sunflower painting.

Last Diary entry "I hope the leaving is joyful and I hope never to return" Frida Kahlo

Dia de los Muertos

Between October 31st and November 2nd in Mexico the Day of the Dead is celebrated.

It is not a sad time but one of holiday, celebration and family.

Mexican people visit cemetries and decorate the graves of loved ones. They spend time at there loved ones resting place. People also scatter petals to create a path for their ancestoral spirits to follow home.

In their homes elaborate offrendas/alters are decorated with marigolds,a departed relative favourite object, votive candles, special sweet breads and sugar skulls, with loved ones names inscribed on.

Spirits of babies and small children are known as angelitos. The little angels are said to return on October 31st and spend the entire day with loved ones.

The other ancestor spirits are said to return after this date.

The Relatives and offrendas welcome and nourish the spirits as they absorb the essence of the placed objects, aromas of food and love of their families.

Elements of All Souls and all Saints day have been absorbed by the Hispanic culture.

The Mexicans have always had strong association and belief with their ancestors.

In ancient times they often buried loved one underneath the house in tombs.

Frida Kahlo has also become an emblem of these celebrations. Her beautiful face is upon many votive objects. There are Frida Kahlo charms, candles and sugar skulls. They appear on many offrendos amongst the dancing skeltons and fiery marigolds.

Even after spending time in America and Europe Frida Kahlo always retained her Mexican roots, her culture and traditional Tehuana dress.

She and Diego had a fine collection of pre Hispanic art.

The Mexican earth goddess Cihuacoatl appears in her paintings.

Frida Kahlo also used votive symbology to express herself in her paintings.

Now Frida Kahlo is celebrated and honoured within Mexican folklore itself

Viva La Vida!

Sources used

Frida Kahlo-Frank Milner

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera- Isabel Alcantara & Sandra Egnolff

Kahlo-Andrea Kettermann


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    • profile image

      Lurana Brown 

      6 years ago

      An informative and lovely tribute to a fascinating woman! :-)


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