My third favorite podcast (after You Must Remember This and Welcome to Nightvale) is the Art History Babes, a podcast about, wait for it, Art History. They do a phenomenal job of presenting topics and exploring the area within it with a tone that is somewhere between academic and fan-squee. Too often, those two tones are incompatible, but they manage to pull it off perfectly.
The recent episode on Frida Kahlo put a bunch of thoughts in my mind about my own connection with the most awesome of Surrealists (if she really was a Surrealist, as I could easily see it going either way on that topic. She claimed to not be on, and that her work did not present dreams, but it appears to fall in with the work of Dali, Magritte, etc.) She was one of the first artists I seriously dug into more than simply plowing through art books. I read a couple of biographies of her in High School, and when the internet was first available to me, found myself AltaVistaing her to find more and more info on her life, her loves, her work. Her's is a tragic story, and too often is told within the confines of her relationship to Diego Rivera. The difference between the two is striking. There is no better muralist than Diego. His work was perfected set for large-scale public interaction. The surviving photos of his work for Rockefeller in New York, a significant portion of the film Cradle Will Rock, shows the depth of his mastery of form.
Frida was the superior Artist. Period. She imbued her work with pain, her pain and the world's pain, and with magic. Even a painting as seemingly simple as her self-portrait with the monkey has incredible depth and layers that spread open as you encounter the work again and again. Frida's technique, rough at times, actually focuses her painterly energies into meaning, symbolism, storytelling in static images. No other artist of the 20th century drew out so much from static presentations, and especially self-portraiture. Every painting she delivered encompassed the energy of her life, fiery and often tragic, and gave us a work that forced us into dark corners, searching for light.
The piece above, at the SFMoMA, is not my fave, but it shows the layers she managed to create within her works. Diego is much more realistic in her delivery of them than she painted herself. They are holding hands, seemingly gently, and Diego holds a painters palette and brushes, while Frida clutches her scarf. The positioning is so straight forward, but the work seems to scream that there is more to this relationship, more to Frida the person, and certainly a sort of cold calculation to Diego's stare. I could go on, and often have, but this work is not nearly as bare bones as it would appear at first glance.
Christopher J Garcia - Curator, Fan Writer, Podcaster, and a guy who just loves art.