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Windows to the soul: The healing artistry of Frida Forever at the ArtScience Museum

2 mins read

Most visitors do not expect to be greeted by X-ray scans or vital charts at an art exhibition. But that is exactly what you will find at Laid Bare: Frida’s Inner World, part of Frida Forever, a new exhibition dedicated to world-renowned Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, at the ArtScience Museum. Troubled by numerous health problems since young, Kahlo’s brilliant self-portraits often showed how she viewed her own body and how she dealt with her pain.

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“Frida Kahlo has always been analysed under the lens of the fine art world…We wanted to humanise her (and) show that she was a woman, that she was a human being,” said Joshua Lau, assistant curator of Frida Forever. To that end, visitors can view lightbox installations of Kahlo’s medical documents at Laid Bare. These replicas, seen from a projection system, offer a glimpse of the reality behind the art.

These materials were made available thanks to Cristina Kahlo Alcalá, Kahlo’s great niece, who also narrates in the exhibition, shedding light on the person Kahlo was beyond her known persona. “Another thing we did to respect Kahlo’s history was to include her personal voice (through) her diary pages,” Lau explained. As a result, the exhibition showcases not just her illness but also how Kahlo overcame life's challenges.

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From pain to power

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Following a major accident at the age of 18, Kahlo was bedridden for several months. She turned to painting to fill the hours, using a specially made lap easel that allowed her to paint from the comfort of her bed. “Kahlo found a lot of resilience and determination in herself to turn her pain into her art,” Lau said. One of the exhibitions, Frida Kahlo: The Life of an Icon, aims to celebrate this.

Adapted from the original Spanish exhibition curated by production company Layers of Reality, The Life of an Icon features a virtual reality (VR) experience where the audience can “wake up” in Kahlo’s bed and are then “transported” to the streets of Mexico, and into some of her paintings. “We thought that the VR experience will allow visitors to step into her world, to understand who she was and how she faced all her challenges,” Lau said.

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Love beyond limits

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Life of an Icon also explores Kahlo’s maternal side, specifically her capacity for love. While she was not able to conceive, Kahlo “poured her love into her plants, animals, also into her nephews and nieces…(She was also) an art teacher, and she would treat her students as her own children”, Lau said.

This abundance is portrayed in the Garden of Love, a cosy segment of the exhibition inspired by Kahlo’s own garden in The Casa Azul museum in Mexico City where audiences can respond to a prompt on how they view love. At the heart of Frida Forever lies a heartfelt reminder: despite her physical trials, Kahlo's resilience, love, and artistry have transcended boundaries of time and space, and continue to appeal to audiences today.

Step into the world of Frida Forever running now till 1 September 2024 at the ArtScience Museum. Tickets are priced from $19.
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All images are credited to Catch.

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