The name Frida Kahlo is probably familiar to you at least in passing. She has become one of the most famous names in art over the years with her unique self-portraits and famous painting such as The Two Fridas. The actress Salma Hayek even starred in a movie entitled Frida about the artist’s life and troubled relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera.

Now, residents and visitors to Chicago’s western suburbs will get the chance to view some of Kahlo’s work thanks to the Cleve Carney Museum of Art and McAninch Arts Center in a partnership with the College of DuPage. The works will be at the Glen Ellyn campus of College of DuPage from June 1 – August 31, 2020. The paintings are on loan from the Dolores Olemdo Museum Collection.

Who was Frida Kahlo?

Friday Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Friday Kahlo y Calderon in 1907, in the village of Coyoacan, just outside of Mexico City. Her parents were a German-Mexican photographer Guillermo Kahlo and her mother Matilde Calderon y Gonzalez. Her father had been born in Germany, but immigrated to Mexico in the late 1800s.

Kahlo’s life was wrought with sickness and tragedy. At the age of six she contracted Polio in her right leg which left it much shorter than her left. Kahlo would cover this up with specially designed shoes or by wearing multiple layers of socks, but she was subjected to bullying at school.

When she was 18, Kahlo was traveling via wooden bus back to her home when the bus collided with a streetcar. Several passengers died and Kahlo was severely injured. She fractured ribs, broke both her legs, her collarbone and was impaled by a handrail which shattered her pelvis. She spent months recuperating and when she continued to complain of pain, x-rays showed she had displaced three vertebrae.

It was during her time recuperating, while she had to lay in bed, her father bought her the paint and canvasses she would use to create her first artworks. She began to get a little local recognition for her work and eventually met muralist and artist Diego Rivera whom she eventually married.

Kahlo suffered with pain due to the bus accident her entire life. Often, she wore back braces as well as braces on her legs. She also wore tight corsets and other costumes which would help her stand up straight.

During her lifetime, Kahlo received some recognition and appreciation for her work, receiving shows in New York, Paris and her home city of Mexico City. However, it was many years after she passed away that her fame really began to grow. During the 80s, Kahlo’s work had a resurgence and grew in popularity.

What was Frida Kahlo’s style?

Kahlo’s style of painting has been up for debate. Some have called her a surrealist, but she often painted self-portraits. She often painted herself and combined her portraiture with heavy symbolism. At the time, her paintings were considered shocking with the use of bright colors and portraying herself in sometimes graphic ways.

Kahlo’s art is known for a few things.

  1. Color – Kahlo herself often wore very colorful garments and created a sensation when she visited New York wearing traditional Mexican dresses.
  2. Self-portrait – Kahlo usually featured herself. Sometimes it was her face and head, other times her body in various positions.
  3. Symbolism – often Kahlo painted elements of things happening in her life or her emotions through various symbols. This could be trees or tree roots, animals, everyday objects (like scissors), or religious symbols.
  4. Hair – Kahlo was famous for her hair, which was very dark, and she often wore it long, but sometimes liked to shock the norms by cutting is very short. She was also famous for her unibrow, painting herself with a dark brow across both her eyes, and with hair above her upper lip. It is rumored she often darkened these aspects of her own face to emphasize them more.

 

Where is Kahlo’s art being displayed in DuPage County?

The exhibit at the College of DuPage will feature 26 paintings and include an immersive exhibit experience to provide context and insight into her life and how she was as a person. The paintings are on loan from the Dolores Olmedo Museum Collection. The paintings will be on the College of DuPage campus at the Cleve Carney Art Gallery at the McAninch Arts Center. In addition to the 26 paintings, the full exhibit will include:

  • Historic timeline the outlines the details of Frida’s life and the events that led to her success
  • 150 photos from Frida’s life
  • Frida Poetry Garden designed by Ball Horticulture
  • Frida Children’s Area
  • Concessions area adjacent to the garden

This historic exhibit will be on display starting in June 2020 and will run through the summer, until August 31, 2020.

Plan your visit to see the exhibit at the College of DuPage.

In addition to the Frida Kahlo exhibit, the DuPage area offers plenty of great things to do. Bring the family for a day at Brookfield Zoo or stroll through the Morton Arboretum – 2 of the 6 must-see attractions in Chicago’s Western Suburbs. Book a stay at a nearby hotel like the Hilton Garden Inn Chicago/Oakbrook Terrace, Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chicago – Oak Brook, Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago Lombard Oak Brook, or checkout all nearby Hilton family hotels.

 

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