Video in the darkened galleries pop with hues of blue, blood red, marigold, leaf green — and a woman with a unibrow. It’s the unmistakable art of Frida Kahlo, a cultural icon in the US, and the center of a sensory immersion at Dallas’ Lighthouse ArtSpace.
The latest stream of her work takes form with music over cinematic scenes of the Mexican-born artist and the mestizo nation of Mexico bursting with energy and contradictions, pain and joy. there’s Two Fridas, her large canvas of selfie twins holding hands and entwined by the same artery coming from two hearts. One image shows her in a formal white dress reflecting her German-born father’s ancestry, and in the other as a Tehuana, reflecting her mother’s indigenous roots in the art-drenched state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.
Images of paintings abound with the love of her life, the muralist Diego Rivera. But there’s also visions of lesser known narrative paintings such as What the Water Gave Me, in which her pain from an accident and a miscarriage for the childless artist is reflected on a watery background. And appropriate for US venues where this Immersive Frida Kahlo exhibit now unreels, canvas images appear from Self-Portrait on the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States.
We sat down with Kahlo’s grand-niece, Mara Romeo Kahlo, the head of the Kahlo Family Foundation, and Romeo Kahlo’s daughter, Mara de Anda, to learn more about the exhibit and what it’s like to see and police the endless commercialization of Frida who was, after all, a Communist. The interview, conducted in Spanish, has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: What do you want people to take away from this exhibit?
Kahlo’s Romeo: It’s important to see not just Frida, the artist, but Frida, the human being. She was a woman who laughed, sang and cried, a strong woman … a woman ahead of her time.
The whole world thinks she was a suffering woman. And it’s true that she did have many operations, but there was also a part that was very joyful.”
From Anda: All of us can be like Frida, to know that inside is where inspiration, strength and passion for life lie. … That can flower in you, the Frida you have inside of you.
Q: What would Frida say about being a pop icon and about the commercialization of her image, in exhibits, on coffee cups to cellphone covers?
From Anda: She would feel so proud. In her life she was a Communist and she was a rebel because it wasn’t a cause that all the world embraced. … But she would be proud because of all this represents today. It’s the representation of strength, passion for going forward. It’s the representation of gender equality. So I think she would be very proud to be an icon for all the new generations.
Romeo Kahlo: I am the owner of her image. Sometimes because they don’t know, they don’t ask permission. We have all the documents that make me the only one who owns the images, and that protects the images.
Q: How did the Kahlo Family Foundation begin?
From Anda: The foundation began with Frida but not on paper. Frida and [her sister] Cristina Kahlo delivered basic baskets of food to single mothers. … Now we have formally constituted the Kahlo Family Foundation. … Every time we have a Frida project, part of the profits help those of lesser means.
Q: Some say Frida is more popular outside of Mexico than within Mexico. Your thoughts?
Romeo Kahlo: I believe that in reality Frida is a universal icon. Perhaps, what happens is that when you live away from Mexico, and suddenly you see an expression of Frida, that reminds you of your roots. Of course, you get very excited.
Q: What is your favorite painting by Frida?
Romeo Kahlo: The Two Fridas. I believe the Two Fridas is interesting because you have the European that reflects her father’s roots in Europe and obviously, she is dressed in white. Then, comes the Mexican vision, with her dressed as a Tehuana. The two units in one heart.
The exhibit can be seen through April 17 at the Lighthouse ArtSpace at 507 S. Harwood St., Dallas. For more information: https://www.immersive-frida.com/dallas/