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“Frida Kahlo: Her Photos”
Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
Recommendation by Deborah Ross

Giséle Freund, "Frida painting the portrait of her father," 1951, photograph. ©Frida Kahlo Museum

Continuing through February 8, 2016

Penetrating the mystique of Frida Kahlo as a woman and as a painter is no easy task, even given that her many self-portraits seem to mirror her emotional state. On the other hand, there are thousands of black-and-white photographs taken either by Kahlo or by close friends and family that offer helpful insights. Almost 250 photos are on display here, selected from the vast archives at La Casa Azul in Mexico City, and it’s an irresistible glimpse into the artist’s relatively short life. There are telling images that jump out: working at her easel; smiling alongside her husband, Diego Rivera; lying in bed with her damaged spine facing the camera. More often than not Kahlo owns her familiar stoicism with that legendary stare.

This compendium of images are not solely of the artist. Kahlo amassed photos of family members, fellow artists, political figures and celebrities. The images reveal her as a hoarder of memories — even a manipulator of them — by virtue of the way she often altered the prints. She planted a lipstick stain on a photo of Rivera in his studio, for instance, and cut out faces in a number of family photos. “Frida Kahlo: Her Photos” is not a conclusive pictorial biography, but certainly a multifaceted one.

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