Frida Kahlo’s art continues to captivate people around the world and she remains one of the most prominent and coveted artists of the 20th century. Recently one of her works, “Diego y Yo”, went for $34.9 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York becoming the most expensive work by a Latin American artist ever to sell at auction. The original selfie queen is now the focus of the latest immersive art experience available throughout the U.S. including Los Angeles later this month. Like the name implies, the exhibit is meant to truly immerse guests in her art by projecting her work on the walls for a 360-degree in a video montage organized by master of digital art Massimiliano Siccardi with original music by composer Luca Longobaridi. Frida’s great niece — daughter of Isolda who was the daughter of Frida’s sister Cristina Kahlo — and president of the Family Kahlo Foundation (Fundación Familia Kahlo) Mara Kahlo, and her daughter Mara de Anda, a spokesperson for the non-profit foundation, describe the show as a celebration of her three loves: Mexican mural artist and her husband Diego Rivera, Mexico, and family.
“I think that this story tells you not only about Frida the artist, [it’s] about Frida the woman. I think that you can feel the woman, you can see her story, you can see part of her history,” Mara Kahlo tells HipLatina. She shares that it was an emotional experience to see her grandmother, mother, and aunts featured in the montage as part of the exhibit, made that much more moving by Longobaridi’s score which she says gave her chills. “I’m very proud and I’m very excited to see that and to hear the music, this is very, very, very emotional.”
The exhibit includes some of Frida’s best known works with the added element of movement in portraits like “The Wounded Deer” where her head painted on a deer’s body moves somberly. The projected art transitions in various directions and the artwork comes together in pieces making the show an emotional and even suspenseful exploration of Frida’s life and work. Another piece that makes an impact according to De Anda is “The Suicide of a Dorothy Hale“, one of Frida’s most controversial paintings depicting the suicide of showgirl Dorothy Hale who jumped out of her New York apartment. “When you’re in the exhibition, you feeling like you’re going down with her,” she explains. She adds that another aspect they both enjoyed from the show is when the music imitates a heartbeat meant to be Frida’s, a touch that brings the artist — who died in 1954 — back to life in a sense.
“We feel at some point in the exhibition, you can feel empowerment. I don’t know how to describe it, because you have to live it. But it’s like, when you’re hearing it is like, ‘I can do it. You can do it’, De Anda explains about the significance of that sound with the art in the backdrop. Mara Kahlo shares that she gets emotional every time she goes to the show because she sees her family and recalls Frida’s happiness and humanity, an aspect they say you don’t see as much when it comes to Frida’s portrayals in media.
Their sense of feeling empowered during the show is fueled in particular by Mara Kahlo’s memories of her aunt (Frida) and her grandmother, Cristina. She remembers they would help their community by handing out bags of rice, beans, sugar, and other necessities and how Frida told her that she’s capable of anything and if she was going to pursue a goal she had to be “the best.” She also recalls Frida singing Mexican songs, joking with her family, and having a love of Mexican food calling her a “glotona”. She hopes that her joy translates to the viewers through the exhibit, a fuller story of an artist whose fame is marked by tragedy. “Nobody knows who Frida really was and her happiness. Everybody talks about ‘the sufrida’, her suffering but she was a great woman, empowered, and very happy so I want everybody to know that part of my aunt,” she says.
Frida’s art is known for depicting her heartbreak over Diego’s philandering, her pain following a bus accident at 18, and her anguish and though that is part of the show, it’s also a curated collection of Frida the Woman. In a time when Frida the Myth pervades our understanding and perception of the famed Mexican artist, her family insists there was more to her than the suffering artist trope.
“She’s a real woman because everybody knows the myth, the painter with Diego Rivera but she was like us,” De Anda explains. “She was ahead of her time. She was a marvelous woman who loved her family, who loved Mexico. So Frida lives in us and I think this exhibition can show you that everybody can be a Frida. Frida is in you, So you can do it. You have to be the best at whatever you do. So be that Frida that everybody holds in.”
The Frida Kahlo Immersive Exhibition is currently open in Dallas, Boston, Houston, and Chicago and set to open in Denver, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and San Francisco. Tickets start at $39.99.