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Elinor Blog- Frida Kahlo Oct 2022 Paris- Palais Galliera, Musee de la Mode de Paris.

I was fortunate to see the Frida Kahlo Exhibit in Paris in October 2022 at the Palais Galliera.

Since the time of my teens, when I was in Mexico City and my family and I were permitted a private walk through of Frida’s house and studio, I have been a fan of and influenced by Frida Kahlo ever since. When walking through the house and studio spaces every square inch was decorated and embellished with objects including each step of the staircase. Many sugar skeletons and pottery items were purposefully placed, and every nook and cranny were turned into a funerary altar.

Frida Kahlo, (born 1907-died 1954), was a female Mexican painter, artist, and activist who created self-portraits about her personal health, disabilities and experiences, and painted her own perspectives of the world and local scenes inspired by her fierce love and pride for the Mexican worker and artisan. Frida was hesitant about describing her style of art, but others suggested surrealism, especially when Frida travelled to Paris for her first Parisian exhibition in the Renou et Colle Gallery in 1939.

In the newly published book, The Heart, Frida Kahlo in Paris, there is discussion that Frida was not happy with the format of the exhibition since she expected a solo show, but other historic Mexican works were featured with her paintings. The surrealist artists then in Paris (Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Jean Miro, Marcel Duchamp, and others) were quite taken back after viewing Frida’s paintings, as they felt that Frida’s paintings were too personal and too physically feminist, displaying realistic biological and anatomical parts which frightened them.

Frida purposefully dressed and spoke about promoting the beauty of Mexican hand-crafted garments, jewelry, and headdresses she wore as she travelled, collaborated with modern artists and photographers and worked alone and with her husband, Diego Rivera.

Currently on exhibition in Paris, at the Palais Galliera the special exhibit displays few paintings, but instead shows many family photographs showcasing her childhood life through adulthood. On display were the most exciting full outfits which Frida wore on mannequins with clothing, headdresses, and jewelry! The visitors were able to walk around and view the exquisite hand embroidery work from all sides. Each mannequin showed how Frida would layer garments and create a whole outfit.

Each outfit on a mannequin consisted of the square cut tunic embroidered blouse ( Huipil) ; a hand woven shawl of various patterns ( Rebozos); full pleated or gathered skirt full length with embroidery and ribbons on the hem ( Rabonas); full under skirts and petticoats (Holanes); sometimes a fabric belt tied at the waist; hairstyles were fabric or flowers woven though Frida’s braided and coiled hair and or a ceremonial headdress worn on the head ( Resplandor); jewelry consisted of necklaces, large earrings and multiple rings.

Frida employed or commissioned a wide range of weavers and embroiderers to make her outfits, many patterns were special designs of women by household whose patterns were unique to the family and passed down from Mother to daughter. The fabrics were silk and cotton unique woven patterns and embroidery, attached zigzag ribbons, sequins, lace, and applique work. The overall mixtures of colors and patterns were layered, influenced by the women dressing in ceremonial occasions in Oaxaca and Tehuantepec regions of Mountainous and Pacific Coastal communities of southern Mexico.

In order to give the public a preview and larger understanding about the importance of wearing family weavings and designs, a film was presented which featured young girls/women wearing their outfits in the village squares for celebrations and ceremonies during festivals, and Sundays strolls.

Frida collected and wore multiple necklaces, large earrings, and multiple rings to complete her outfits.

She was very aware and intent on featuring the multiple talents and historic elements of Mexican women and indigenous women of Mexico—so these multipatterned garments and multiple jewelry pieces demonstrated intrinsically how women in Mexico styled and wore their art wear with pride and passion. Such women were not influenced by the European or US style of fashion, but perhaps due to availability, the yarns, sequins, fabrics were sometimes employed in a truly Mexican aesthetic fashion as the artist handcrafter chose her palette.

Frida had an extensive jewelry collection which included large and heavy necklaces and rings made of gemstones, ancient pottery, and semi-precious minerals from ancient archaeological dig sites, rings and beads, some necklaces strung on rope, and both sterling silver and gold jewelry. Frida also wore enormous earrings, once again these styles of earrings were an integral part of the ceremonial outfits of the region. Much of the jewelry was made in the Oaxaca area where the silver and gold mines offered materials and ancient symbols freely to the artisans of that mountainous area. Taxco, Mexico is located in the Oaxaca area, and is to this day a famous metal smithing center for Mexican jewelry.

With the following photos I took at the museum exhibit, I hope you enjoy the wonderful aesthetic of Frida Kahlo. I also hope you feel inspired to explore Frida’s art work and learn more about her work, life and cultural influence. Frida Kahlo is a fashion icon whose voice has established a love and admiration for the handcrafts of Mexico.

Thank you very much for reading this blog of mine. January 17, 2023.

Enjoy the discovery!

Elinor Coleman and Vintage Mirage.

The Heart, by Marc Petitjean, Adriana Hunter, translator, Other Press 2020

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