Fans of the artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) should make haste to the New York Botanical Garden before November 1, because that's when the extraordinary exhibition FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life comes to a close. It's satisfying to see a Kahlo painting with lacy palms and bougainvillea, but when the live floral surroundings of Mexico are presented as they are here, with tropical heat and vivid color, the effect is like stepping into one of her paintings.
The multi-part FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life includes recreated garden elements of her home, Casa Azul, in Mexico City (now the Frida Kahlo Museum); her studio desk with a small world globe, jars of paint pigments, and a full set of dry pastels; and the cactus fence from the San Ángel house, all within and outside the Haupt Conservatory. The Library building features 14 paintings and works on paper, highlighting her bountiful botanical subject matter, along with other artifacts and artistic interpretations. The centerpiece of this exhibit, fitting for the presenting institution, may well be the plants themselves - great, gorgeous ferns, agave, cacti, euphorbia, golden and orange marigolds, and sunflowers, among many others. Above all, sunflowers.
The exhibition that began in May during the season of young leaves and pastel flowers concludes, fittingly, during autumnal Día de los Muertos celebrations.
While we visit Kahlo in her home surroundings in Mexico, it's worth mentioning that she frequently visited New York, with most visits to the Depression-era New York of the 1930s. In November 1931, Kahlo and Diego Rivera traveled to New York for Rivera's retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The couple returned in the spring of 1933 for Rivera's mural commission (and subsequent controversy) in Rockefeller Center. (See more on this site. )
After separating from Rivera, in 1935 Kahlo returned to New York with two friends and stayed several months. In October 1938 she travelled to the city for her first solo show at the Julien Levy Gallery on E. 57th St. In 1939 she returned to New York once again, this time to enact the last chapter of a love affair. In 1946 Kahlo made a final trip to the city for a painful bone-graft operation. Beset with ill health for much of her life, she died July 13, 1954 at home in Casa Azul.
Visiting Frida at the garden in the Bronx would be a good way to celebrate her life.
See New York Botanical Garden exhibition website on FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life for details and events.
Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from October 17, 2015.