A look at the Frida Kahlo: POSE exhibit at the Rose Art Museum

Installation view of “Frida Kahlo: POSE.” (Photo courtesy of Rose Art Museum)

By Nicole Galioto
Boston University News Service

On view through Jan. 2, 2022, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University has been hosting “Frida Kahlo: POSE”, an exhibition presenting vintage photographs, rare film footage, and paintings that span the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Kahlo’s work recently appeared in headlines, after the sale of her self-portrait, “Diego y Yo,” fetched some $34.9 million at auction last week. Running since June, those who are looking to learn more about the transformative artist would find plenty of insight at the exhibition at Brandeis, which has been holding virtual events in conjunction with the exhibit.

One of them included a virtual tour earlier in October, led by co-curators Gannit Ankori, director and chief curator of the Rose Art Museum, and Circe Henestrosa, Mexican scholar and curator and head of the School of Fashion at LaSalle College of the Arts. 

Ankori said in the virtual tour that the “exhibition is organized in five overlapping sections: posing, composing, exposing, querying, and self-fashioning.”

“The materials emphasize the significance of photography in Kahlo’s life and creative process and the profound and very generative interplay between photography and fashion, art, and the instruction of identity,” Ankori said.

“POSE” explores the ways in which Kahlo presents herself in paintings and photographs. Ankori said that her “intense, unflinching gaze appears in photographs and paintings,” and that these images enable audiences to see the “care with which she fashioned her style.” 

According to Henestrosa, Kahlo started to paint more seriously when she was in San Francisco, and that her experience in the city “fashioned her to one style.”

Ankori said that after Kahlo was photographed as a “Tehuana woman” by photographers, she began to paint herself as one. Henestrosa said that Kahlo “adopted richly embroidered blouses, floor-length skirts, and woven shawls, as well as jewelry and braided hairdos of the Tehuana.” 

Ankori said that Frida Kahlo’s “identity as a serious painter, and the deep significance of her sartorial choices were rarely acknowledged.”

A section of the exhibition also highlights her art-making practices through a series of photographs and brings attention to the difficult pressures society places on women to be a perfect mother and a wife. 

Photographs of Kahlo in the exhibition highlight her perseverance through physical and psychological struggles such as her miscarriages, her divorce, a serious accident, and the consequences of her contracting polio at age six.

Ankori said that Kahlo used her work to express her suffering while “articulating her own resilience and capacity to create meaning, joy, beauty, and art.” 

The photographs in the exhibit highlight the ways in which Kahlo uses accessories and clothing to present herself.

In some vintage photographs, Kahlo challenges gender binaries by accentuating certain attributes such as her facial hair and her eyebrows. Such details brought attention to “what she considered her masculine or androgynous features at a time when such displays were really very bold and daring and subversive,” according to Ankori. 

“Today, 67 years after the artist’s untimely death, her path-breaking poetics of identity inspire artists, musicians, students, people with disabilities, people of color, members of the LGBTQ plus communities and ever-expanding audiences,” Dr. Ankori said. 

“Frida Kahlo: POSE” is on view now through Jan. 2, in the Lois Foster Wing of the Rose Art Museum in Waltham.

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