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Windows Into the Soul of Frida Kahlo

In honor of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, the South Haven Center for the Arts created a series of window installations during the summer of 2020 that featured various objects illustrating Frida's love of the art created by the indigenous people of Mexico, who Frida admired greatly for their hard work and talent. Here you will see examples of the types of things Frida may have collected herself for display in her home in Mexico City, Casa Azul. There are also examples of the unique style of fashion Frida developed and was known for throughout her life.

Oaxacan Embroidery

Embroidering garments has been practiced by Mexican matriarchs for hundreds of years, and regional patterns from the Mexican states are handed down through generations to keep the tradition of embroidery alive.

Frida's mother was from Oaxaca, and from Frida's wedding in 1929 until her death in 1954, she honored peasant women by wearing their patterned creations, her favorite being those of Tehuana, Oaxaca State, Mexico. 

Oaxaca is home to several different groups of indigenous peoples—most notably the Zapotec, Nahua, and Mixtec tribes. Each has a distinctive tradition of embroidery, and were, and continue to be today, influenced by their individual social structures and views of the world.

Mexican White and Black

An Oaxacan huipil, alabaster carvings, a milagro heart, and white wedding flags were brought together with a Frida plaque, tin candelabra, ceramics, white calla lilies (one of Frida's favorite flowers) and touches of black and white fabric to create this installation.

The huipil is a traditional tunic-like garment commonly worn by indigenous women from Central Mexico to Central America. These garments are made by stitching together pieces of cloth, often cotton, but others are made from different fabrics like wool and silk. Huipil refers to anything from a blouse to a dress, worn as everyday clothing or for ceremonial events. Ribbons are often sewn into huipil worn as wedding dresses.

Milagros—meaning "miracles"—are small metal religious charms, often in the form of arms, legs, farm animals, and people praying. They are typically attached to crosses or wooden statues of saints, the Virgin Mary, or Christ, or hung on alters and shrines with red ribbons or thread. Many also carry milagros for protection and good luck.

Mexican Earth Colors

A wall hanging depicting a bird, ceramics, embroidery, and objects carved from natural wood are just a few examples of the types of objects Frida may have collected for her home at Casa Azul.

The Brights of Mexico

Some may conjure up images of desert, cactus, and stone pyramids when thinking of Mexico, which is a large part of the country's heritage. Mexico is also full of color, from the orange terra cotta tile roofs that can be seen when flying into Mexico City, to the Mexican Folk art created by it's people for centuries, including textiles, pottery, jewelry, toys, and the artwork of many Mexican artists like Frida Kahlo.

Birds, Animals, and Fish in Mexican Art

Animals, birds, and fish play a primary role in the imagery of Mexican art and craft. Frida depicted pets and other animals that made up her world in her paintings and drawings. Here you can see that animals, birds, and fish were created in many mediums and forms, from embroidered clothing, tapestries, and blankets to pottery, and wooden and clay figures.

The Colors of Frida's Kitchen

The walls, furniture, and objects in Frida's brightly-colored kitchen at Casa Azul were complemented with art, pottery, tiles, kitchen utensils, wall hangings, and flowers. The tiles, blue-rimmed glassware, green ceramic vase, colorful ceramic tray, sunflowers, Mexican doll, pottery, and other objects you see here represent objects Frida may have chosen for her kitchen.

The art center extends heartfelt thanks to artist and SHCA member Dorris Akers for her hard work designing and installing these wonderful views into Frida's surroundings with the help of SHCA Exhibitions Coordinator Noelle Malevitis. And to Jarrie Suarez, Thea Grigsby, Carol Trittschuh, Allyn Winkel, Catherine Dobbs, Sally Decardy, Maria Dias, Cristina Bishop, and Dorris, all of whom loaned objects from their collections to the art center to create these wonderful visions of the types of things Frida surrounded herself with.

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