Mexique

Last November, my daughter and I went to see the “Mexique” exhibition at the Gran Palais. Here is the long overdue publication of my related notes:

Pont Alexandre III  is the most ornate and grandiose bridge in Paris. Named after Tsar Alexander III, the bridge commemorates the alliance established between Russia and the Third Republic in 1892. And, with its view of the Eiffel Tower, it’s an often used location for wedding picture and tourists’ selfies.  Crossing the bridge is like taking a stroll in an en plein air museum as the bridge is full of sculptures—cherubs, lions, seashells, monsters and much more. Built for the city’s World Fair in 1900, the bridge links the Hôtel des Invalides  with the Petit and the Grand Palais.

Pont Alexandre III

The Gran Palais hosts a number of exhibitions every year such as “Mexique” dedicated to Mexican art from 1900-1050. Naturally, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were the main attractors but there were, aside from Orozco and Siqueiros,  many “minor” artists of interests such as José Guadalupe Posada, Julio Ruelas, Roberto Montenegro, Ángel Zárraga and Carlos Mérida.

Some of the women included in the exhibition:

Tina Modotti photographed Frida and mujeres indigentes

Lola Alvarez Bravo photographed Frida and Mexican culture

Maria Izquierdo painted self-portraits and Sueño y presentimien

Lola Cueto made puppets and papel picado embroidery

Olga Costa painted fruit and people

Nahui Olin was a model, painter, and poet

Rosa Rolanda was a neo-figurative painter

English-Mexican Leonora Carrington was a surrealist painter

Alice Rahon was fascinated by Frida

Bibliography: The Human Tradition in Mexico  byi Jeffrey M. Pilcher

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Frida Kahlo & Miyako Ishiuchi

Japanese artist Miyako Ishiuchi takes photographs of clothes.  She began doing so after her mother died. Miyako’s mother had a strong personality and lived in a time that went through numerous metamorphoses. By photographing her mother’s intimate effects such as lingerie, shoes and cosmetics, Miyako examined the memory she had of her mother. Because clothes give us an identity.

Frida Kahlo's Clothes by Ishiuchi Miyako

A few years after photographing her mother’s belongings, Miyako began a new project: Yokosuka Story.  She started photographing the personal objects of those who’d lost their lives in the American bombing of Hiroshima treating the objects just like a saint’s relics. Thus the victims are seen as martyrs. Objects like combs, watches, and shoes are the only things left of a life obliterated by a bomb.

Frida Kahlo's Clothes by Ishiuchi Miyako

After Frida’s death, Diego Rivera had her wardrobe with all her personal belongings locked up. It was kept this way for 15 years after his death.  But it wasn’t until 2011 that the contents of the wardrobe were photographed. And it was Miyako Ishiuchi who was selected as photographer photographing the clothes was like photographing a person.

Frida Kahlo's Clothes by Ishiuchi Miyako

miyako-4-b

“If I met her, I wouldn’t ask any questions. I would only want to stare at her and touch her body.” Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyakois talking about Frida Kahlo.

Miyako Ishiuchi and Frida Kahlo

Miyako Ishiuchi and Frida Kahlo

Bibliography:
Frida by Ishiuchi. Ishiuchi, Miyako; Trujillo, Hilda; Ankori, Gannit; Henestrosa, Circe. Museo Frida Kahlo. Mexico City. 2014.

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Frida Fashionistas

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

Frida was an anti-conformist who made her style loud enough to be heard. So loud, in fact, that 60 years after her death, it still echos. Frida Fashionistas have gone global and fashion designers blatantly appropriate The Frida Look.

Fashion is a form of expression. But when I dress, am I expressing me or somebody else?

More à la Frida:

Fashion Designer à la Frida

Frida a la Gaultier

Frida à la Vogue

Prada à la Frida KahloLangerfeld ò la Frida

Dolce Gabbana à la Frida

 

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Copyright © 2016 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved

 

Related links (fashion à la Frida): Maya Hansen 2013 + Lena Hoschek 2013 + Moschino à la Frida + Gudrun Sjoden à la Frida + Matilda Temperley à la Frida + John Galliano à la Frida + Christian Lacroix à la Frida + Valentino à la Frida + Osman Yousefzada à la Frida + Chinese fashion design student à la Frida + more à la Frida

Frida and Coatlicue

Many Mexican intellectuals including Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera sustained Mexicanidad, the pro-native movement associated with the Mexican Revolution.

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

Alfredo Chavero (1841-1906) was a politically active Mexican archeologist who enthusiastically promoted the re-appropriation of Mexico’s indigenous past.  Chavero wrote extensively on Middle American Indians.  He was the first scholar to make reference to Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess who wore a skirt made from serpents and a necklace made of hearts, hands, and a skull pendant. With such a surrealistic look, it’s no wonder that Frida fell in love with her and often used Coatlicue related motifs for her paintings. In her “Self-portrait With Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird” (1940), Frida portrays herself wearing a necklace of thorns adorned by a dead hummingbird.  Dead hummingbirds were often used as charms to bring good luck in love.  The painting was made shortly after Frida’s divorce from Diego so, obviously, she was devastated and used her art to help her purge some sorrow.  Photographer Nickolaus Murray, friend and ex-lover, bought the painting from Frida knowing she needed the money.

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

I would like to make a huipil dress dedicated to Coatlicue.  It would have a bodice made of skull printed fabric and a skirt of snakes!

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

 

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Copyright © 2016 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved
Bibliography:
Gaba, Xhensila. Frida Kahlo beyond the “painter of pain”:Kahlo’s artwork through the lenses of cultural and political identity. Retrieved 31/10/2016 https://www.academia.edu/3214913/Frida_Kahlo_beyond_the_painter_of_pain_Kahlo_s_artwork_through_the_lenses_of_cultural_and_political_identity
Helland, Janice. CULTURE, POLITICS, AND IDENTITY IN THE PAINTINGS OF FRIDA KAHLO. Retrieved from internet 31/10/2016 https://msu.edu/course/ha/240/fridakahlo.pdf

Chavela Vargas

Chavela Vargas

If you’re going to suffer, sing about it. This is what Mexican rancheras have taught me.  And no one respected this philosophy more than Chavela Vargas.
Ranchera songs are populated by the broken hearted who go to cantinas to drink away their sorrows. This music was traditionally dominated by men until Chavela elbowed her way in to make space for las borracheraswomen who could drown in alcohol as easily as men could.  And before criticizing these tequila drinking mujeres, it should be noted that Chavela & Co came from pre-feminists times. This Cantina Solution was a reply to conformity and fake respectability. Drinking like men suggested a form of emancipation.

He Went To The Cantina And Thought About Her

Chavela Vargas was born in Costa Rica but moved to Mexico at the age of 14 where she sang in the streets until she got gigs in cantinas. Here she made no secret of her sexuality and was known as a cigar smoking, heavy drinking womanizer. Chavela sang in cantinas for years until she was discovered by singer and songwriter extraordinaire José Alfredo Jiménez.
Jiménez did not play a musical instrument and knew little about musical technicalities but he wrote over 1,000 songs many of which are still well-know today. Together, Jiménez and Chavela turned pathos into poetry.
Chavela felt at home with Jiménez’ songs. Take, for example, En El Último Trago where the singer asks an ex-lover to drink together until oblivion. Because:

The time hasn’t taught me anything,
I always make the same mistakes,
I drink again and again with strangers
and mourn because of the same sorrows.

Once her career took off, Chavela came in contact with a new milieu. She became friends with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and was often their house guest. It’s also rumored that Chavela and Frida had an affair together. Besides, Frida liked to wear huipiles, Chavela ponchos. If you saw the movie Frida, you can’t help but remember Chavela singing La Llorona.

Frida Kahlo y Chavela Vargas

But the Cantina Solution caught up with Chavela. She became a major alcoholic and, during the 1970s, gave up singing. But almost 20 years later, at the age of 81, Chavela returned to the stage. She debuted at a sold-out Carnegie Hall at the age of 83. After each song, she was rewarded with a standing ovation. The audience could not have enough of her. In the words of Pedro Almodóvar, Chavela made of abandonment and desolation a cathedral in which we all found a place.
The Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca, was one of Chavela’s passions. Unfortunately, García Lorca’s life was brief. In 1936, he died at the age of 38, assassinated during the Spanish Civil War.
In 1993, Chavela went to Spain and stayed in a room that once had belonged to García Lorca. Every day, she said, a yellow bird would come peck on the room’s window and she was sure the bird was the spirit of Lorca himself.

There Was A Bird at Her Window

Chavela spent the last year of her life recording Luna Grande, a mixture of music and García Lorca’s poetry. So great was her love for García Lorca that, at the age of 93, she travelled to Spain to visit his grave. Chavela fell ill but insisted on going back to Mexico where she died a few weeks later.
And who can be more inspirational than Chavela—abandoned by her parents as a child, bullied for her sexuality, living on the streets, addicted to alcohol yet, more than 80 years old, gets on the stage to deliver a goose bumping performance. Thanks Chavela!

(originally posted HERE)

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Copyright © 2015 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved