Frida has left the building. The Nickolas Muray exhibit featuring photographs of Frida Kahlo at the Fresno Art Museum has ended its run.
I did, finally, make my way there, better late than never, but not because I did not want to go. I wanted to savor every photograph and try to feel my inner Frida in order to better understand her charisma, her art and her life.
Because of my busy mind, I needed to do this with as few people around as possible, and that meant not going during the opening days when the museum would be crowded with whispering and awestruck people.
My friend Susanne, with her long, blond hair in contrast to my curly, puffy, dark hair, picked me up in her Prius and immediately my mind began channeling Frida as I wondered what she would have thought of us.
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We walked around taking in the colors of Muray portraits, of Frida’s life, in vibrant greens, reds, yellows and magentas of tragic moments, monkeys, parrots and famous unplucked facial hair.
We stopped to read each love letter and those written regarding setting up her art show or a trip to Paris. I should tell you that Susanne kindly read me the letters, at my request, as I wanted to absorb each word to better understand the Frida mind.
Each letter, regardless of whether it was the proclamation of undying love for Diego Rivera, Nicholas, Paris or the ones expressing disenchantment with them, were filled with passion and with language much more colorful than those in the photographs.
I began to identify with Frida’s colorful and messy life, having myself endured a few relationships, miscarriages including those of justice when one divorces, and all the drama one creates in the throes of passion.
Yes, I was definitely in the moment but quickly startled out of it when Susanne quipped that Frida was wearing some “really ugly hand earrings.” I then just as quickly quipped back that I would wear webbed feet on my ears if Picasso had bestowed them upon me. He was the one that had presented those little earrings in the shape of hands to Frida when she met him on one of her Parisian excursions.
I am sure Susanne said something comparable to one of Frida’s utterances, which could turn anyone a brighter shade of red than one of Frida’s shawls. I quickly muffled a loud laugh.
I was definitely channeling my inner Frida and could now imagine us all having a “girls night out” with our hair tied up in flowers, Susanne’s long golden tresses tied up with purple bougainvilleas and my voluminous hair loose with maybe a rose tucked in behind my ear. Then, of course, there would be Frida, with her crown of magenta.
We would be sitting around a bar, taking shots of tequila, smoking small cigars, in all our flowery hues. We would be dynamically discussing the madness of our times and maybe Frida would make us privy to little secrets like what Diego’s next project might be. Perhaps he was painting her into one of his murals on a tall tower or wall somewhere.
It was time to say goodbye to a kindred spirit, but I had learned something in my short visit. Frida was an artist whose life was the work, her passion her medium and her paintings her memoir.
Beatrice Ayala Valenzuela is a writer and an artist and a resident of Fresno. Write to her at email@example.com.