In Wonderland: Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists at LACMA

Happy Mardi Gras, all! It’s been many years since I lived in New Orleans, but I’ve always loved the holiday since I was little. At my Montessori school in Memphis, TN, each year we put on our own parade, built floats, dressed up, ate King Cake. It was a lot of fun. Then I lived in NOLA for a semester in college and got to go to the first post-Katrina Mardi Gras. Was really interesting. But that’s a story for a different day.

Los Angeles is a town full of museums: The Getty, The Hammer, MOCA… but one of my very favorites is LACMA (LA County Museum of Art). They have a great permanent collection of classical and contemporary art, and always have interesting special exhibitions. This season’s is called In Wonderland: Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists. The main draw, for myself included, is the Frida Kahlo paintings. Frida is the patron saint of my family. Since childhood images of her, her work, Diego’s work, have graced the walls of my home (usually in the form of postcards or tin folk art). For Historical Halloween the first year of attending Montessori school, I dressed up as Frida. My hair up, flowered, my real little-girl-unibrow darkened, flouncy skirt and monkey on my shoulder to boot! I grew up with many artists represented in my home, both famous and local, but Frida was always most prevalent. Our home decor pulled a lot of inspiration from Mexico anyway. Retablos, sugar skulls, paper flowers, chile lights all around.

Sadly though, I had, until this weekend, never stood before Frida’s actual paintings. The exhibit was packed with people. Many taking photographs of the work, which I find obnoxious. It was hard to get close to the paintings, which I like to do to see the brush strokes up close. Some of her most famous works were there. Many were smaller than I had previously thought. They still had great impact on me. But it wasn’t until I walked into the room containing the massive Las Dos Fridas painting that I teared up. I felt overwhelmed by the work, and I felt like I was finally with her a little bit. These were the images I grew up with, cherished, wrote poems about, and here they were. The buzz of the crowd was distracting, and I didn’t want to make my boyfriend stand around all day, so I didn’t take as much time as I would have liked with each piece. Perhaps toward the end of the exhibition run I’ll go back alone and take more time to soak the pieces in.

The work was so beautiful, so comforting, and I feel blessed to have seen it. Someday I hope that I can go to Mexico to see her house. I want to take my mother there–Frida means a great deal to her too.

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