MFA visitors pay tribute to Mexican culture during Frida Kahlo exhibit

Sussy Santana, 42, came to Boston from Rhode Island to see Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular exibition and joined the embroidery workshop during the First Friday night at MFA on March 1, 2019. (Photo by Mariya Amrayeva/BU News Service)

By Mariya Amrayeva
BU News Service

At the MFA exhibition “Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular,” visitors can see more than just the artist’s paintings – toys and salt shakers, festive masks and jewelry holders, traditional dresses and pictures of corsets are also on display. The famous Mexican artist drew inspiration from traditional Mexican folk art — arte popular, to create her own style. Kahlo paid tribute to her motherland and celebrated Mexican national culture with every painting she did.

On March 1, art fans in general, and fans of Kahlo in particular, gathered at the Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyard of the Museum of Fine Arts to experience the new exhibition and share drinks and tapas during MFA’s traditional First Fridays night. Visitors not only got to become of the first viewers of the “Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular” exhibition that takes place Feb. 27 through June 16, but also were invited to have a hands-on experience in the art of embroidery.

The idea of bringing needles, canvas and threads to the laid-back Friday party was inspired by Kahlo’s obsession with the traditional dress of various indigenous cultures. She not only collected the clothing of the different cultures, but also had her own clothes made in that style. Her dresses were political and artistic statements.

The embroidery workshop during the First Friday night at MFA on March 1, was inspired by the obsession of Frida Kahlo with traditional clothing of indiginous Mexican tribes. (Photo by Mariya Amrayeva/BU News Service)

“She looked totally different from any average sophisticated Mexico City woman at that time,” said Emily Auchincloss, who curated the event. “She really stood out.”

Moreover, Kahlo’s traditional dresses were very practical.

“She also had polio as a child and was in a near-fatal bus accident. So, she was pretty severely disabled,” said Auchincloss. “The loose, flowing dresses and blouses gave her space to move and covered up the discrepancies between the legs.”

Auchincloss thought that an embroidery workshop during the First Fridays event would raise awareness of Kahlo’s artistic path and Mexican culture among visitors.

“Here we are exploring embroidery, using imagery from textiles similar to the ones that [Kahlo] wore, and creating something tonight instead of just sitting around and listening to the music,” said Auchincloss.

Embroidery is a big part of not only Mexican, but all Latino culture.

The curator of embroidery workshop, Emily Auchincloss (left) taight the visitors how to make different types of stitches during the First Friday night at MFA on March 1, 2019. (Photo by Mariya Amrayeva/BU News Service)

Santana sisters, Sussy, 42, and Helen, 43, came to Boston all the way from Rhode Island to see Kahlo’s paintings. As soon as they entered the Shapiro Family Courtyard, they joined the workshop – they could not miss the opportunity to sit next to each other with needles and thread in hand, the way they did as kids.

“My mom had a craft school at our house in the Dominican Republic,” said Sussy Santana. “She used to teach girls in the afternoon – how to sew, embroider and things like that. And my sister was her assistant.”

“Oh, this brings us back to our childhood and things that we used to do in the time we spent with our mom,” said Helen Santana.

Sussy Santana’s ticket to the MFA First Fridays night was a gift from her older sister, who knew that she adores both Frida Kahlo as a strong woman and a unique artist.

“I’ve always been a big fan. I think she’s amazing,” said Sussy Santana. “I think her work shows the power of art. She was in pain most of her life, and her art liberated her and allowed her to express herself in ways that her physical body was unable to.”

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