The long-awaited Frida Kahlo: Timeless exhibition is finally open at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art on the campus of College of DuPage and well worth the wait. This is a world-class immersive exhibition which should rightfully bring visitors from everywhere to Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The years of planning and large expenditures have culminated in a remarkable exhibition of Kahlo works which will only be available for viewing from June 5 to Sept. 6, 2021 and will not be traveling. This is the most important exhibition of Frida Kahlo works in Chicagoland in 40 years.
Waiting through the dark COVID-19 days, hearing about the Kahlo exhbition, my colleague and I wondered when and if this would actually happen. And, now, suddenly, here it is, and, what a memorable experience it was!
Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 on the outskirts of Mexico City, the third of four girls. At the age of six she contracted polio and was left with a limp. At age 18 she was intending to become a doctor. She was riding the bus along with her boyfriend when the bus driver attempted to pass an oncoming electric streetcar. The streetcar crashed into the side of the wooden bus, dragging it a few feet. While Arias (her boyfriend) suffered minor damages, Kahlo was impaled with an iron handrail that went through her pelvis. She later described the injury as “the way a sword pierces a bull.” The handrail was removed by Arias and others, which was incredibly painful for Kahlo.
Kahlo suffered many injuries: Her pelvic bone had been fractured, her abdomen and uterus had been punctured by the rail, her spine was broken in three places, her right leg was broken in eleven places, her right foot was crushed and dislocated, her collarbone was broken, and her shoulder was dislocated. She spent a month in hospital and two months recovering at home, during which time she began to paint. Being alone, many of her paintings were self-portraits. She suffered throughout her life, having at least 30 surgeries and spending a great deal of time in bed. Her illness became the impetus for and the subject of her paintings.
As I stepped inside the museum, I was greeted by Frida Kahlo, a huge blown up photo. To the left, was a monitor telling the Frida Kahlo story and the way in which her life impacted her art. Moving on is her the bed in which she lived and died. Many photographs (100) lined walls with descriptions of their significance in Kahlo’s life. A replica of her clothing hung nearby and the braces that provided stability so she could move were on display. Because of the extensive multi media presentation of her life and the culture and times in which she lived, the gallery with her paintings and drawings was more meaningful.
The 26-piece collection on loan from the Museo Dolores Olmedo are carefully selected works, showing a variety of topic and style over time, always clearly recognizable as Kahlo. These works almost never leave their home in Mexico. Kahlo’s paintings can’t be fully understood or appreciated without insight into her person and the world she was a part of. The influences of Mexico City as a center of international art and culture in the early and middle 20th century is very significant. Kahlo’s lifelong battle with illness and pain did not restrict her diverse and intense passions. In many ways, Kahlo’s painting, politics, and identity were ahead of her time, and are extremely relevant today. Kahlo explained that she “painted her reality” (though the paintings often seem fantastical). The insight into that reality this exhibition provides, as it allows the viewer intimate access to her world is powerful, and almost overwhelming at times.
Check the family-friendly children’s area and the Frida Kahlo inspired garden designed by Ball Horticultural Company. Museum-goers of all ages are offered the opportunity to better understand Kahlo’s life and work through a variety of contexts including video, objects, written description and audio. The exhibition and related programming were organized by “Frida Kahlo: Timeless” Executive Director Diana Martinez (Director of the McAninch Arts Center) in collaboration with Justin Witte, “Frida Kahlo: Timeless” Curator (CCMA Curator). For more information, visit frida2021.org and on social media @CleveCarneyMuseumofArt.
Events that enhance the museum experience past and present can be found here
About the Cleve Carney Museum of Art
The gallery was a beautiful space and the exhibition was carefully constructed to draw the viewer into the story of Frida Kahlo on many levels that resulted in an impactful experience, almost stepping into the life of the most well-known female artist in the world. The late Cleve Carney provided a significant legacy gift to establish the Cleve Carney Art Gallery at College of DuPage. The gallery opened in February 2014 with its inaugural exhibition “Selections from Cleve Carney’s Art Collection.” In fall 2020, the gallery was expanded to a 2,500 square-foot museum, the perfect setting for the “Frida Kahlo: Timeless” exhibition. More information can be found at TheCCMA.org and on social media @CleveCarneyMuseumofArt.
About the MAC
The McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage is located at 425 Fawell Blvd., 25 miles west of Chicago near I-88 and I-355. It houses three indoor performance spaces (the 780-seat proscenium Belushi Performance Hall; the 236-seat soft-thrust Playhouse Theatre; and the versatile black box Studio Theatre), the outdoor Lakeside Pavilion, plus the Cleve Carney Museum of Art and classrooms for the college’s academic programming. The MAC has presented theater, music, dance and visual art to more than 1.5 million people since its opening in 1986 and typically welcomes more than 100,000 patrons from the greater Chicago area to more than 230 performances each season.
The mission of the MAC is to foster enlightened educational and performance opportunities, which encourage artistic expression, establish a lasting relationship between people and art, and enrich the cultural vitality of the community. Visit AtTheMAC.org or facebook.com/AtTheMAC for more information.
The exhibition is presented by Bank of America and made possible through support from the College of DuPage Foundation, Milly and Alan Peterson, Ball Horticultural Company, Nicor Gas, Wight & Company, AeroMexico, the National Endowment for the Arts and the DuPage Foundation.
This Video is a tour of the exhibition.
Unless otherwise noted, photos of the Frida Kahlo: Timeless exhibition, Web Credit: Claire Britt, Courtesy of the Cleve Carney Museum of Art.