Frida, in a New Pose
The Rose Art Museum welcomes a novel look into the life and works of iconic painter Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo. Her face, paintings and aesthetics are undoubtedly embedded in our pop culture. But who is Frida Kahlo really? Despite the amount of attention dedicated to her work, to this day, much of her vibrant backstory remains either unfamiliar or oversimplified to the majority of the public who consume her art.
“Frida Kahlo: POSE,” an ongoing exhibition at the Rose Art Museum, seeks to challenge common assumptions and misconceptions about the painter and her life. It also breaks down an overview of Kahlo’s life and identity through a mesh of different lenses, including, but not limited to, exclusive archival footage, rare photographs and a selection of her own paintings and drawings.
Located in the Lois Foster Ring of the museum, the exhibition opened on June 25 of this year and will be available until Dec. 19. Past events included a screening of “Frida Kahlo” (2020) in July, a documentary about Kahlo’s life and work, featuring both a variety of primary sources and interviews of several scholars and curators.
One of the scholars was Gannit Ankori, director and chief curator of the Rose Art Museum. She is also the co-curator of “Frida Kahlo: POSE.” Renowned for her expertise on Frida Kahlo, Ankori specializes in modern and contemporary art, specifically Mexican and Middle Eastern art. Having received her Ph.D. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she had previously served as the Henya Sharef Professor of Humanities and Chair of the Department of Art History before coming to Brandeis in 2010.
On Oct. 28, there will be a free virtual tour of the exhibition offered over Zoom. “I will take [the attendees] on a virtual tour of “Frida Kahlo: POSE” with my co-curator Circe Henestrosa, a brilliant Mexican fashion scholar,” Ankori explained. “We will walk the viewers through the show composed of five overlapping sections: Posing, Composing, Exposing, Queering and Self-Fashioning.”
Staying true to a key theme of the exhibition, Ankori plans on discussing a sometimes hidden, more personal side of Kahlo — for example, her queer and disabled identities — and how they intertwined with her work as an artist.
“We will focus on Kahlo’s diverse modes of creativity and explain how she used photography, fashion and art to construct her own complex identities. Through her art and ways of being, she explored her ethnicity, disability and gender fluidity in transgressive ways that speak to the current moment,” Ankori said.
There are many reasons why Kahlo’s nuanced identity, despite being so integral to the art she created, is for the most part disregarded in the public sphere. Ironically, Ankori believes this might be partly due to Kahlo’s widespread appeal and unforgettable, idiosyncratic outward appearance — she had become a pop culture icon, with her face plastered on posters and murals, but with relatively fewer people engaging with her beneath the surface level.
“Kahlo’s popular appeal often overshadows the complexity and multi-layered aspects of her brilliant art,” Ankori said. “Popular culture zooms in on external features like the unibrow or the titillating details—real or imagined — of her marriage to Diego Rivera.”
“A deep look at Kahlo’s art reveals how she transformed personal experiences into profoundly significant visual compositions that explore the human condition. Her art teaches us about the fragility of the body, about love and death, about hybrid cultural identities, and more. Her bold resilience imagination and refusal to let her disabilities define her are an inspiration.”
One major lesson Ankori believes viewers could take from Kahlo, a path-paving woman ahead of her time, is the courage to be true to themselves.