Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Exhibition Santiago 2009

February 28, 2009

Earlier this month I went to an exhibition of the various art works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera that was on display in Santiago at the Centro Cultural Palacio at La Monera.  The name of the three-month exhibition was Vidas Compartidas.  The exhibition included various paintings, sketches, dresses and personal effects belonging to this dynamic, fiery, controversial, larger than life man and wife . a Legendary couple that together redefined art on a global scale.


No cameras were allowed in the exhibition, even without flash, so there are no photos to share, but I will try to add whatever links I can find to help underscore what I saw.  Again these are not my photos, so all rights remain with the websites that they come from.

Growing up in Mexico and Texas, I have always been aware of Diego Rivera’s work, especially his frescos and murals. In fact, I have seen many of them on visits to Mexico City, but I didn’t remotely comprehend the magnitude of his work or the complexity of the man. Frida Kahlo’s work was familiar in that I recognized the style of bright colors,  indigenous culture symbolism and figures with signature “uni-brow” faces;


but until now I could not have told you much about her or even that she was married to DR. 

La Paloma y el Elefante

As I began to read about the couple before visiting the exhibition, I realized that the depth of my ignorance, especially as a Mexican American, was embarrassing.  The exhibition, and research I did before going to it, opened up a new world of understanding into the dynamics of what they created in the art world, their influence on the political scene in Mexico and the controversies they were part of around the world that included rumors of links to political assassinations, serial infidelity, Frida’s bi-sexual lifestyle, an affair with Leon Trotsky, communism and even links to the Rosicrucian movement in Mexico. 

Diego Maria de la Concepcion Juan Nepmauceno Estanslao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodriguez , known to us simply as Diego Rivera,  was  married to Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Y Calderon for 24 turbulent years, that included a divorce that lasted a year.  (1929 to 1939 and then from1940 to 1954).


Rivera was born on December 16th 1886 in Guanajuato, Mexico and died at age 70 on November, 24, 1957 in Mexico City. Frida was 20 years younger than Rivera, born July 6, 1907 in Coyoacan, Mexico. She died, some say by her own hand, at age 47, on July 13, 1957 in Coyoacan.  The last entry in her extensive personal diary is  “ Espero que la marcha sea feliz y espero no volver.’ Which is usually translated as “I hope the exit is joyful, and I hope never to return.” (This contributed to the belief that she may have deliberately overdosed)

The exhibit covers every aspect of their life together including hand written notes and letters that I found poignant and evocative. Her letters show a warm loving side…beginning with “Diego Mi Amor, or Ojos Mios”  and ending with bright red lipstick kisses.  Others show the pain of Frida’s life… including a famous quote … Bebía porque quería hogar mis penas, pero la malvadas aprendieron a nadar…. I drank to drown my sorrows, but the wicked things learned to swim.” 

As it turns out I happened to go first  into the exhibition hall that focused on Frida . The first thing you notice is the incredible variety and vibrant colors of her clothes.


Then you begin to see that the skirts are all full length.  There are several reasons for that …first she contracted polio at age 6 which left her with one leg thinner than  the other.


It was only the beginning of a very painful life full of tragedy that is would be the crucible where neo mexicanism art was born and would fuel the creative and physical passions of Diego Rivera.

Of the 200 art works that Frida created, 80 of them were self portraits, conceived during long periods of recuperation from 35 operations that resulted from a bus accident on September 17, 1925.  One of the drawings in the exhibition was of one that she drew of the accident.

 She was left with a broken spinal column, broken collarbone,  ribs, pelvis, 11 fractures in he right leg, a crashed right foot and her uterus was pierced by an iron rail.  The reason for the detailed injury description is that in one form or othe,  the injuries would find their way into her paintings and drawings.

The Broken Column

During the three months after the accident, while in a body cast, her mother had a special easel made so she could paint in bed.  Frida is quoted as saying” I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject that I know best. “

Some of her most famous works are symbolic representations of her physical pain, miscarriages and especially her sexuality and the emotional turmoil during her time with DR.
I have to say that the works at the exhibition were stark… particularly the one representing her miscarriages.  It was almost impossible for me to look at it very long. Not so much gruesome, just powerful and for whatever reason it hit an uncomfortable  chord for me.  Frida is quoted as saying “ I never painted dreams, I painted my own reality.

 Some of her other works, like the portrait of Luther Burbank were fascinating in their complexity and because in that case the exhibit also had initial  the pencil drawings and sketches of the work… you got to see how the idea was originally conceived and then the final work.  The sketches were the most interesting to me. 


I was drawn to and intrigued by how a few simple lines could create an entire image.  In some cases as few as 12 lines made up the entire drawing ….

Before moving on to DR, a few final key points about Frida. She was bi-sexual and many still photos in the exhibit are of her with various very famous women who are rumored to share that orientation. DR was reportedly unconcerned about her affairs with women, but was violently jealous of her affairs with men. One of her most famous alleged affairs was with Leon Trotsky just before he was assassinated in Mexico.  Trotsky, seeking asylum from the Stalin, lived with the Riveras in Coyoacan briefly.

Self Portrait for Trotsky

Her works I am told fall into a combination of surrealism, realism and indigenous cultural symbolism.  In 1939, her work, the Frame was purchased by the Louvre.

It was first work of a modern Mexican artist purchased by that museum.   In 2001 Frida  became the first Hispanic woman to be honored with a U.S Postage Stamp.

One of the things that I noticed in the various works at the exhibit is that she consistently seemed to have a tough time getting the proportions of her subject’s hands and feet right. That is not uncommon for a self taught aritist.

It was her raw talent that reportedly first drew Diego Rivera to her. She approached him for advice…he took her under her wing. A cliché as it sounds, they began an intimate relationship despite a 20 year age difference.  The married over her parents objections in 1929.  Her  father used to call them the Elephant and the Dove because of the extreme difference in size.


Size difference, aside, by all accounts they could go toe to toe when it came fiery temperaments  and sexual infidelities.  Diego went so far as to have an affair with Frida’s sister Cristina.



There is no doubt that Diego led an unconventional and controversial life. So controversial he actually got kicked out of the Communist Party.
The other exhibit hall focused on DR’s works including sketches of my long time personal favorite mural… the revolution with Emiliano Zapata and other historical figures.


Most people I think would associate him with the the murals of Mexico City, he is in fact one of the one of the original artists of the Mexican Mural Program. A government sponsored program created to celebrate Mexican history which became known as Mexican Muralism. Other artists include Rufus Tamayo and Jose Clemente Orozco. 



Rivera’s first mural is called Creation. He painted it in 1922 at the Bolivar Auditorium of the National Preparatory School in Mexico City.


Later that year he joined the Communist Party and rose through the ranks to the central committee. His works from 1922 to 1922 all had revolutionary themes. Especially the 1910 Revolution. In the sketches I could see the simple but  elegant figures with clear Aztec influences.  



The exihibit also included samples of Cubism works

 and more traditional paintings like that of Delores Del  Rio, Jorge Negrete and Maria Felix.  A very public two year affair between Diego ad Felix led to this painting by Frida.


Once again the sketches were almost as fascinating as the finished works. 

Several times, I could almost see him doodling on a pad of paper or simply blocking out a concept that would later come to life in the form of 5 ton images taking up a city block. 


The photos of him in his studio , where he died while painting , were interesting in the detail of the work environment.
One photo shows him shows him seated with an obvious look of concentration  as he stared at a painting…trying   to figure out if he liked it or what was missing.
There were quite a few surprises for me…there is one painting of Matilde Urrtutia, Pablo Neruda’s third wife,  painted in Santiago that incorporates the profile of Pablo Neruda hidden the woman’s hair.
It was that kind of hidden symbolism that aggravated the world around him and made him the focal point of constant controversy. His work,  In The Arsenal, was interpreted as Rivera having prior knowledge of the assassination of Jose Antonio Mella by a Stalinist assassin.

Even when he wasn’t painting he was a lighting rod for political factions. Invited to Moscow in 1927 to take part in the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution, he was ordered  out of Russia for anti-soviet politics. He was later expelled from the Mexican Communist party. A few years later, a mural at the Rockefeller Center was removed after an uproar because it included a portrait of Lenin. That furor led to a contract to paint a mural for the Chicago’s World Fair to be cancelled.   
Rivera at Rockefeller Plaza

In 1940 he was in the US for the last time to paint a panel mural in San Francisco for the Golden Gate Exposition called Pan American Unity…


I am ashamed to say that even though I lived there for ten years, I never realized I had not one Rivera work under my very nose but two.  The other is a Fresco painted in 1930 for the California School of Fine Art now the San Francisco Art Institute.

Rivera died a couple of years after Frida Kahlo in 1957.

One last surprising fact from the exhibition…Rivera was the founder of the Rosicrucian Grand Lodge in Mexico City.


Blogged with the Flock Browser

‘Cow Frontation at Dawn’

November 14, 2008



LA Capana National Park, Chile

November  2008

La Campana is one of Chile’s best known national parks located about an hour and a half north of Santiago on ruta 5.  It also accessible from Vina del Mar.

Fog at Dawn added a sense of tranquilty as a mare and her colt grazed in a pasture.

As is my habit when I do these day trips, I get up about 4:30 and get on the road by 5.  I enjoy having the road to myself, though the morning fog is certainly a challenge to drive in and in Chile often times so are the directions to various locations.

I knew I had to get off Ruta 5 at Ocoa. There is even a clear sign saying “ salida La Campana,” but when I came off the freeway I ran into this street …not exactly inspiring much confidence or providing guidance as which way to go.

Nothing like clear directions when you get off the interstate.

 Luckily as I stopped to take the photo, a local Huaso comes out of the fog from a dirt path on his horse on the way to work  and assured me I was on the right road.

Huasos of La Campana packed for the market

The exchange with the Huaso went like this: 

Huaso: ‘ Drive down past Don Pedro´s and turn right’  (that´s Provisiones Don Pedro on the left in the photo above.) 

 Rolando:  ‘Turn Right where?’

Huaso: ‘ Turn right where you can turn right.’


Rolando: ‘ How long before I get to the  turn?


Huaso: ‘   ‘That depends on how fast you drive. ‘ Then he tips his hat and goes on.


He was right, there is only one right turn and eventually I spotted the sign and turned right.  It wasn´t long before I was on the a beautiful two lane country road arched with trees.

 Part of the reason for the early starts is to be there while the birds and wildlife are moving around.  Being there as dawn is breaking provides photo opportunities of all kinds.  You never quite know what you are going to see. Perhaps a field shrouded in early morning mist.  














When I stopped to get the shots of the horses, the air was thick with the wonderful aroma of wood burning stoves and fireplaces.  What really got me was a cacophony of roosters from across the valley egging one another. It reminded me of waking up at Abuelita Conchita’s when I was a kid.


As I said you never what you’ll find on the road at dawn.   Today I ran into a maverick herd of cows that had made a break for it from their pasture leading to the Cow-Frontation at Dawn.  In the first shot you can just see the farmer in the background with his arms up in the air.   

The Get Away  

First the lead cow sees my car and decides to block my path.


In the next shot the cows are  looking back as if to see if the farmer and his dogs were gaining on them.


As the farmer gets closer, the cows try to make another break for it.

When the dogs and the farmer arrive, the lead cow is not happy and makes it clear to the dogs.























Eventually, the dogs herded the cows back to the pasture and all without any injuries to the cows or the dogs.
























Just before I got to the park, I happen to see a new born colt wobbling on uncertain legs while his mom gave him his first bath.  Not a sound anywhere except for roosters, bird calls and an occasional neigh from the mare.



La Campana is known  for abundant flora and fauna, the signature pant is Chilean Palm… which is everywhere even lining the top of the mountains which today were covered in varying degrees of fog.



While there is camping, this is mostly a hikers park, though there are horseback tours and day trips available.  This Huaso was leading a group of riders up the moutian.


 On one of the various trails I realized that I was being watched…by a wary coyote. 

We stared at one another for about 15 minutes before he went deeper into the woods where I could  not get a good photo of him.  About ten minutes later, up another trail I spooked some California Quail who waddled away from me.  



They were introduced to the country in about 1870 and have flourished here. Some bird experts thinks there are more California Quail here than in there are in the states. 















 Some of the other birds that I saw were  Rufous Collard sparrows.




















 The ever present Queltehues:








 And a Diuca Fincand finally varied flora :
















Embalse EL Yeso, Chile — Entre El Gaucho y El Huaso

November 13, 2008


Entre El Gaucho y el Huaso
It’ s only 75 kms from Santiago to Embalse El Yeso, in the Cajon Del Maipo, but because of the road conditions ( in winter it is almost impossible to reach the summit) it can take 3 hours or more to make it to the summit. The views, the tranquility and solitude are more than worth the drive.

Embalse El Yeso ( El Yeso Dam) Cajon del Maipo, Chile
October 2008

The dam, located at the 9000 foot level provides most of the fresh water supply for Santiago. The water, which is icy cold at this time of the year, comes directly from the runoff of the winter snows and from the Rio Yeso. The lake turns a stunning turquoise color in the early spring sunshine. At this altitude, there is no smog or pollution so the skies are a crystal clear and a deep blue color as well. The Dam took ten years construct and was finished in 1964.


El Yeso Reservoir Blue Green Waters

El Yeso Reservoir Blue Green Waters
The fog made finding the correct road to the reservoir a challenge because there aren´t very many signs… as in three of them. The drive takes you through San Jose de Maipo, and to San Gabriel. Here you have to pay attention, because at km 47 you can easily miss the left turn up the reservoir.
Dawn over the San Jose de Maipo River



The directions I had struck me as amusing when I read them because they said turn right, the pavement will end, just follow the dirt road.


when the pavement ends...just follow the dirt road

when the pavement ends...just follow the dirt road

Yeah well, the pavement did end and the next 20 miles were literally a dirt road complete with dicey bends, and drop off some like the one below we not very steep others were downright scary.

This is a two lane road?

This is a two lane road?


As you can see in photos, the road just snakes its way through the canyon. You almost don’t notice that you are climbing the edge of the mountain until you come one turn which shows the length of the of the valley,


Cajon del Maipo Valley

Cajon del Maipo Valley

The dicey nature of the road really becomes apparent when you drive around a bend and come head to head with a car that is trying to share what is really a one lane road. In the late afternoon you have to deal with motor-cross bikers who barrel around the curves at break neck speed. There were quite a few places where the Spring runoff cascaded over the road, making it a challenge to continue to the summit where the dam is located.

The Spring Thaw cascades over many parts of the road to the summit.

The Spring Thaw cascades over many parts of the road to the summit.




I came across a wonderful array of bird life and flora, including one bird that normally is not seen that high up on The Cordillera. Among the birds I saw were Codroniz (California Quail), Chirihue Cordillerano (Bright Rumped Fellow Finch), Loica (Long Tail Meadow Lark ), Blue White Swallow and a few others that I am still trying to identify.



King of the  Quail Hill

Loica´s and a Morning Mating Call  












The day was warm, but cool. I had shorts on, but with a long sleeve shirt because of the breeze. Lunch was cheese, olives, bread, some local home made smoked sausage, an apple …and best part …the lake all to myself.