Non-fiction Saturdays

Experiencing Frida Kahlo

And The Connection Her Art Has To Firsts

Capturing me capturing Frida. Photo by Sherry Kappel

At the invitation of Sherry Kappel, I traveled a stone’s throw away from my city to the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina. The purpose? To meet up with Sherry in order to experience the Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. I had never been to this museum before. Firsts are nerve-wreckers for me. I knew I’d be around quite a bit of people, perhaps in close proximity to them as well and I tried my best to subdue any anxiety that was drumming up.

Add to this the fact that I would also be meeting the young ones Sherry was hosting from Brazil and I had to talk myself down from becoming a bag of nerves and worry. I cannot be anyone but myself and oftentimes, I worry how I will be perceived.

It was evident moments after meeting the young ones — I had no need to worry or fret. I was met with big smiles and delightful personalities and I was instantly reminded of just how glorious it is (sometimes) to meet new people.

The North Carolina Museum of Art, from what I could cram into my scope with the amount of time allotted, is vast, with structural art pieces perfectly placed on its grounds. To be one of the many people attending this popular exhibition blew my mind. I was going to experience Frida . . . This was huge!

Kahlo’s work is deeply personal, often depicting her own dreams, painful personal experiences, and affinity with Mexican culture, while Rivera’s more public art portrays everyday people swept up in industrial and cultural revolution. — NCMA

I cannot be anyone but myself and oftentimes, I worry how I will be perceived.

Taking in my surroundings, I gave myself a silent pep talk and a pat on the back. The experience would be a remarkable one. And it was.

Calla Lily Vendor, Art by Diego Rivera. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

The layout of the area for the exhibition did not seem overwhelmingly large but big enough for us to wind around several times, getting lost in the indescribable creativity set before us. This was a bucket list event I did not know I wanted, but now, it can be scratched off. The exhibition begins with a few of Diego Rivera’s mural-styled vibrant pieces and some noted others but jumps into the eye-catching portraits of Frida Kahlo as well as many pictures of her and Diego taken by friends and family.

Girasoles (Sunflowers) by Diego Rivera. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt
Self Portrait with Braid, 1941 by Frida Kahlo. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt
Frida Kahlo With Magenta Rebozo, “Classic”, 1939 by Nickolas Muray. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

We all filed down the line pressing our eyes upon the many works before us, reading their descriptions, absorbing their intensity, and snapping photos to capture their beauty. Everyone came with their “inside voices” and their “listening ears.” It was as if each of us understood the importance of this first and how Frida Kahlo and her art demands our full attention.

Few artists have captured the public’s imagination with the force of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907–54) and her husband, the Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957). The myths that surrounded them in their lifetime arose not only from their significant bodies of work, but also from their friendships (and conflicts) with leading political figures and their passionate, tempestuous personal relationships. — NCMA

It was hard not to snap photos at every turn. I wanted to be able to have my own digital file to reflect upon how exceptional being in attendance for this was for me. Sure, I can rely on my memory to recall the visual displays, but I want to be able to view the details of the pieces I found astounding. And with these photos, I am able to do that for years to come.

Self Portrait with Necklace by Frida Kahlo. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt
Nickolas Muray, “Frida with Olmeca Figurine, Coyoacán”, 1939. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt
The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego, and Señor Xolotl, by Frida Kahlo, 1949. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

The exhibition took about an hour and ten minutes to view. The girls were just as astounded as both Sherry and I and it was interesting to hear their thoughts and their excitement about an artist who lived and was of high caliber status before all of us. What was also evident is that we all seem to have in common great appreciation and love for her work. Not only did we enjoy this first together, but I also had the opportunity to have lunch with all of them. We traveled to a pub-style deli restaurant aptly named Village Deli & Grill not far from the museum.

There, I ordered the shrimp po’boy and sweet potato fries (which was delicious, by the way). While munching on our food, we fell into conversations with the young ones on how different their areas of Brazil are and how at their current view of the United States, the similarities and differences promptly jump out. I was listening to these two young ladies — both very strong-minded and outspoken, share their thoughts and the first thing that popped into my mind was, “I wonder if they write.” What they said and how they said it needed recording or documenting of some kind.

I also thought, “Yes, these are two of the people who will lead us into betterment.” It was a pleasure to watch them express themselves, yet allow one another the floor when necessary. Their cultural differences related to ours stood out and I had no choice but to take notice. I learned a lot during my time spent with them and it all began with an invite and Frida Kahlo. The connection I felt from one common interest is what I needed this past weekend. I am looking forward to many more firsts this year.

I have more growing to do.

Originally published in P.S. I Love You via Medium.



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