Gallery exhibit showcases Mexican artist Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo is a Mexican artist whose face, with her riveting dark eyes and unibrow, is instantly recognizable — even to people who know little about her life and art.

Yet, more than 80 years after her first New York exhibition, Kahlo still fascinates as a woman, an artist and an iconic figure to feminists and political activists.

A nearly life-size photo of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo seems to peer over the shoulder of a visitor at the Kahlo exhibit, now on display at the Rao Musunuru M.D. Art Gallery on the west campus of Pasco-Hernando State College in New Port Richey. (Fred Bellet)

Pasco-Hernando State College’s Rao Musunuru M.D. Art Gallery is hosting a Teacher’s Discovery Traveling Exhibit to highlight Kahlo and her work.

The exhibit is free and open to the public.

The gallery, located in a wing of the college’s library at 10230 Ridge Road in New Port Richey, is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Monday through Thursday, and from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., on Friday. The exhibit ends on Dec. 12.

“She was a revolutionary,” said Connie LaMarca-Frankel, a humanities professor at PHSC, and a founder of the Tampa Repertory Theatre. “She was engaged in the politics of her day and at the same time was an artist.”

LeMarca-Frankel brought her students to the exhibit to introduce them to Kahlo.

“Now maybe they’ll start to think about her,” the humanities professor said.

The exhibit includes large banners that feature Kahlo and recreations of her paintings.

Luz Himelhoch, a foreign language professor, added Latin rhythms to an exhibit on Mexican artist Frida Kahlo by teaching students the dance and music of meringue and salsa.

Books on Kahlo are there, too, for study or a quiet moment to sit in a chair and browse their pages.

There’s also an interactive video that gallery visitors can use to view La Casa Azul, Kahlo’s house and garden in Coyoacan, outside Mexico City.

Kahlo was born in 1907 and died in 1954, at age 47.

Her short life was filled with debilitating pain from childhood polio and a bus accident that crushed and wounded her body. She spent nearly two years in a body cast. Lying on her back, looking into a mirror, she painted what she saw – Frida Kahlo.

She met Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera, a much older man than she, and already wildly famous. They had a tumultuous marriage, a divorce, and a remarriage. Both had love affairs.

For many years, she was known more for being Rivera’s wife than as an artist in her own right.

Books on the artistry of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo abound, and are part of an exhibit at the Rao Musunuru M. D. Art Gallery at the Pasco- Hernando State College West Campus in New Port Richey.

She is known for her self-portraits, and for a folk-art style of painting that captured Mexican culture and challenged people’s concepts of gender, race, class and the history of colonialism.

Two of her most known paintings are “The Two Fridas” and “Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.”

In “The Two Fridas,” Kahlo did a double self-portrait. Both Kahlos are sitting down. One is garbed in European-style dress, the other in traditional Mexican dress.

In the other painting, Kahlo is wearing a thorn necklace, with a hummingbird pendant. On her right shoulder, a monkey pulls at the necklace, drawing blood. A black panther, with blue eyes, looks over her left shoulder.

“She was such a great personality. Her artwork is amazing,” said Blythe Sanschagrin, who attended the exhibit’s opening reception. “I love the story of how strong of a woman she was.”

Maria Rhew, (standing) a Pasco-Hernando State College library senior staff assistant, and Natalie Danwing, 21, a PHSC senior, look over pictures of the work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Kahlo’s Mexican heritage seemed right for a celebration of multiculturalism during Hispanic Heritage Month, which was from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

The exhibit also serves a mission of the college to promote interactive events for students, said Ray Calvert, the college’s director of libraries.

“The main thing is to generate awareness for students and create themes around which they can interact,” he said.

Luz Himelhoch brought her own form of interaction to the opening reception.

She had about 30 students swaying and sashaying to Latin rhythms, as she taught them to dance the salsa and meringue.

She is a Kahlo admirer.

“Frida Kahlo is my hero,” Himelhoch said. “This is a woman who had to endure so much at a young age. She still continued to forge on. She never gave up.”

Published October 25, 2017

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