Frida's Frames

As icons go, surrealist painter Frida Kahlo has become as recognizable as the Virgin Mother or Ché. Her face peers out from jewelry, bags, clothing and décor of various kinds--and not just in Mexico or the Southern states. Her uni-brow is beloved and universal; her gaze is all-knowing and piercing. But unlike the aforementioned icons, she didn't produce a religious leader (she couldn't even bear children after a near-fatal accident), and she didn't front a political movement. She simply painted. And she painted images of herself.

What was a therapeutic activity while bed-ridden, Kahlo developed into a prolific career. Well-respected, she gained fans in the art world. She twice married muralist Diego Rivera after being introduced to him by Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias, who was also responsible for her passionate affair with famed portrait photographer Nickolas Muray, known for his shots of celebrities in magazines such as Vanity Fair. During a trip Kahlo took to New York and Muray's studio, he shot some of the best-known images of the Mexican artist, including "Frida Kahlo, 1939." While fans of Kahlo's work came to know her image as shown in her self-portraits, those who were not familiar with her came to know her iconic traditional Mexican style thanks to Muray. It is said that their affair ended when Muray learned that she desired him as a lover, but not as a husband. In Salomon Grimberg's book I Will Never Forget You...Frida Kahlo to Nickolas Muray, the affair remains alive through accounts of correspondence and his photographs, some of which have never been published.

Photographs Do Not Bend is the first venue for the release of the book as the gallery hosts the exhibit Portraits of Frida Kahlo. The book will not be distributed in America until next year. Fans of photography and Kahlo will revel in the energy--the obvious spark--between the subject and the photographer demonstrated in the portraits. It seems no surprise, however, that her dramatic and turbulent life would transfer itself into some of the most colorful and stunning photographic portraits, both environmental and staged. In a letter to Muray dated June 3, 1939, Kahlo said, "You will always be inside the magenta rebozo (on the left side)." His portraits make it clear that the feeling was quite mutual.