3. See a Frida Kahlo painting original in real life
I can’t remember the first time I heard about Frida Kahlo or the first time I saw one of her paintings. I do, however, remember the first time I really became completely fascinated in her. I was a freshman at Greenfield Community College (it must have been 2009 or 2010) and I was taking a class called Film and Literature where we would study films, discuss them, read about them, and so on. We watched the movie Frida and I fell in love.
I was always a big fan of art, my dad being an artist, and while I possess no artistic abilities, I do like to look at art and study it. As a child, I really like surrealism. I had a book called Dinner at Magritte’s and I learned a little about Magritte and Dali, the latter soon became one of my all time favorite artists. Many people would call Frida’s work surreal although she wouldn’t. Either way I immediately was attracted to her style.
Not only did Iike her art, I also really liked her. Granted, I didn’t know her on a personal level, but after watching the movie about her life, reading some of her words, and studying her paintings, I realized that her and I were similar in many ways. I got a weird feeling inside of me whenever I learned more about her, like we were somehow connected. I know that sounds weird but WHATEVER. Anyway.
After GCC, I went to UMass and took an art history class. Upon receiving the syllabus, I was really upset and puzzled to find there was no Mexican art to be taught that semester (at that time I was also really into Diego Rivera). I didn’t know how big schools like UMass worked, so I went up to the professor after a class and asked her why she wasn’t going to touch on Mexican art. She explained to me that there was a separate class at the university on Mexican art that I should take next semester. I was already sick of UMass on my first day there so I told her I had plans to transfer (which ended up being true), and she told me she would ask the Mexican art professor to come in and do a lecture. A few weeks later, he did, and I was so satisfied and grateful but also upset that I wouldn’t be taking anymore art history classes at UMass. But I moved on.
Years went by and Frida stayed close with me. I planned lessons at Westfield State that focused on her, I dressed up as her for Halloween (quite well I might add), and I taught a lesson about her during summer school. Children are always fascinated by her. Last school year, a group of second grade girls at my school did a report on her. Their teachers, knowing how much I love Frida, invited me in for the presentation, which was wonderful.
Two years ago my mom, my aunt, and I went to an exhibit in San Diego, California called The Complete Frida Kahlo, which featured 123 exact replicas of work. There was also jewelry, a replica of her bed, and clothes. That was when I realized that I really needed to see one of her works in person, not a replica, but the real thing. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few Rivera paintings and Dali paintings but I really wanted to see her.
I did some research and found that her closest piece to me was in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art. I had always wanted to go there. I went to the MET a few years ago but modern art always appealed to me more.
After some research on the museum, I invited my “ride or die chick” (is that what the censored version is called?), Mary, who is down for anything and, even though her favorite artist is Lisa Frank, was down to check out the museum with me.
Mary and I took a bus to New York City and immediately from the bus stop booked it (run-walking) to the MoMA. We got to the museum and Mary was lucky enough to remember to bring her college ID to get in for discount. I, on the other hand, forgot my ID but felt bad lying anyway that I was no longer a student. Oh well. I found out weeks later that the prices are in fact a suggested donation and we could have, if we brought it up to the cashiers, gotten in for free. For your health. I told the cashier that I was excited to see a Kahlo painting. Her response? “Yeah, we got a few of those”. So nonchalant!
Mary and I went floor by floor to the various exhibits and had respectable fun.
And then, we saw it!
Frida painted this piece for her friend and also included a mirror that was to be placed next to the portrait, so when her friend looked in the mirror, Frida would be next to her.
I can’t really express how I felt about seeing this piece in person. In a word, it was emotional.
Despite what the cashier said, this was the only Kahlo painting on display at the time. My theory is thatother paintings that might have been there were on display at the Frida Kahlo garden exhibit in the Bronx. But what do I know?
This summer goal was really important to me because it was also a life goal. I’m extremely happy that I got to see this painting with Mary. Frida seemed to really care about her friends, as evidenced by the story behind Fulani-Chang and I and the fact that she gave many of her paintings to her friends. It only made sense that I saw her work with my dearest friend.