A Sunday excursion to the MFA in Boston was beyond my expectations. The artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) avidly collected Mexican Folk art. An exhibit featuring this art and some of Frida’s clothing is at the MFA until June 19th.
Frida used unique items to create her persona in clothing. She often mixed the traditional tribal clothing pieces with Victorian pieces. Frida was not afraid to use bold and bright colors in her clothing. The same can be said of her life choices, a marriage to Diego Rivera the artist 29 years her senior, as well as the colors she chose to use in her paintings. The unique tidbit about many of her self portraits is her use of clothing that she had in her own closet. She often changed the color of the clothing to work with the painting, but not the style.
All personal items of Freda Kahlo and Diego Rivera were locked in their home inside a bathroom for 50 years. It was a time capsule of clothing, letters, corsets, medicines and photographs. This revelation of the items in the Blue House bathroom added a new layer to Kahlo’s complexity.
A talk by Marta Turek, a textile and Mexican tribal expert, was held at the MFA this past Sunday. Knowing the topic of textiles was my love I attended the talk. WOW! Marta was amazing. She was also there when the bathroom door was unlocked! Marta went into details of the items of clothing that were discovered in the bathroom and worn by Frida. Above is a Tehuana dress made in Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. May of the outfits could be found in photographs taken of Frida while wearing them. Amazing!
Frida often wore huilpil as blouses with a Victorian style skirt that had a lace applied tot eh bottom of the skirt. The huipil above is hand-loomed cotton. It shows pride in the local textile production with the embroidered words “Mexican Republic”.
Frida also wore shawls or rebozo, like the one pictured below, as a coat. This was made on a backstrap loom. Classic rebozo are made of cotton and silk . She had a large collection of rebozo and she can be seen in many photographs wearing a shawl for warmth.
Frida was a force to be reckoned with. Her clothing was chosen to convey a specific feeling when she was photographed. She always appeared tall and proud. Only a one photo of Freda was found in more relaxed pose and clothing.
Her patronage of tribal merchants brought a spotlight to the rural community and helped to provide income to crafts people. Today many of the embroidery and weaving crafts are dying. Those still producing these items are looking carefully for artists to learn the skill and replace them.. I am up for it! Anyone else?