“She just has an amazing ability to speak to people on so many different levels,” explains Sandra Sawatsky. “People are dying to see her. She was just like a fashion icon.”

Sawatsky, the artist behind the Black Gold Tapestry exhibit at the Glenbow Museum, is a big fan of Frida Kahlo’s work.

Kahlo is one of Mexico’s most iconic female artists, known for her painted self-portraits.  For the first time since their unveiling in 2007, more than 200 photographs from Kahlo’s personal collection are coming to Canada for their inaugural visit.

Frida Kahlo painting in her bed, anonymous, 1940 ©Frida Kahlo Museum

The Glenbow’s current exhibition, Frida Kahlo: Her Photos, showcases photos from the archives of Casa Azul, the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico.

As the exhibit shows, Kahlo’s artistic abilities weren’t limited to her intricate paintings — she also loved photography and collected more than 6,000 photographs captured by her and those close to her before her death in 1954.

“You’re looking at their mind or their creativity and most of us connect with that,” says Sawatsky. “I think everybody has an inner Frida.”

ART FOR ALL

People of all ages attended, from young children still wearing princess costumes to Glenbow veterans who said they had been attending these events for years.

“We always attend Glenbow events. Why? Because we’re trying to stay young!” says 63-year-old Richard Penn.

Frida painting the portrait of her father, by Gisèle Freund, 1951, ©Frida Kahlo Museum

Penn says, as well as keeping him and his wife young, art is extremely important to younger generations.

“I think Frida’s important to young women because Frida embodies a certain spirituality and genuineness and femininity … and also a certain liberty.”

Kenzie Henderson originally heard of the event on Facebook, but came because of her passion for Kahlo. She says it was her uncle who first sparked her interest after introducing her to Kahlo’s work.

“I just think it’s really important to show strong feminist icons of the past and celebrate the ones of the future as well.”

Henderson was accompanied by Skylar Duguay — the two share a common interest in art.

“I think it’s a way we can kind of delve into the past and see how people express themselves and how they lived … therefore, we can keep that culture and the significance alive,” says Duguay.

Frida Kahlo, by Guillermo Kahlo, 1926, ©Frida Kahlo Museum

A LIVING LEGACY

People came out in droves on Feb. 2, for the opening night of the exhibition, including Paul Kinasevych, a university student in Calgary.

“I’m rather fond of Frida Kahlo’s paintings and I was curious to see some of her photography,” he says.

Kinasevych was one of many people who were intrigued by Kahlo’s photographs.

“I was very impressed with the rather industrial one she took of the Ford Factory in Detroit … it really kind of demonstrates, I guess, the breadth of her artistic disposition,” explains Kinasevych.

Not only did people come view the photographs, many people dressed up as Kahlo in celebration of her legacy.

Maria Loaiza, another visitor of the museum, was not alone in wearing clothing that resembled the bold and much-loved style of Kahlo. Many women were donning flowers in their pulled back hair, while wearing vibrant colours and patterns.

Loaiza says she first discovered her passion for Kahlo while studying art in Colombia and that she imitates her with such enthusiasm because of Kahlo’s, “passion for life, love, friends, and family … she was very powerful [and] very inspiring.”

Loaiza invited many of her friends and family to accompany her at the exhibition and is grateful that this opportunity to view the photos is offered by the Glenbow Museum.

“This is a gift for all of us, and we should take advantage of this gift.”

KEEPING ART ACCESSIBLE

The Glenbow Museum has been a staple in Calgary’s downtown core for more than 50 years, hosting three launch parties each year to encourage all Calgarians to enjoy their collections and exhibitions.

“She just has an amazing ability to speak to people on so many different levels,” explains Sawatsky. “People are dying to see her. She was just like a fashion icon.”

With pay-what-you-can-admission, the Glenbow makes art affordable for everyone.

Kinasevych says he thinks it’s great that the museum is letting people see the art they love, even if they wouldn’t regularly have the budget to do so.

“I love it, I think it’s very important to encourage people to get engaged and involved with the arts … this is good for everyone. I’ve seen kids here, I’ve seen people of all sorts of different demographics, and it’s lovely.”

Frida Kahlo: Her Photos is currently on display at the Glenbow Museum until May 21, 2018. For more information visit glenbow.org

cchapdelaine@cjournal.ca

mneuman@cjournal.ca

Editor: Kendra Crighton | kcrighton@gmail.com