By Doreen Wynja as told to Ann McCormick
It was a small group – only six of us – that attended a GWA Connect meeting at the “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” in Tucson, AZ exhibit on March 10. My time there was part of a working photographic tour of Phoenix and Tucson and other points in the Southwest. Since I am more of a photographer than a writer I thought I’d give you my impressions through photography with a little commentary, translated by Ann McCormick, blog editor.
I have known about Frida for some 20 plus years prior to the exhibit. She was tenacious, honest, and passionate. I was drawn to her whole story of physical and emotional pain and her ability to express her emotions through her art. It was perhaps the only way for her to have relief.
Frida was spirited! I tend to be a bit strong-headed and passionate myself – but not quite to her extent. I appreciate and respect people who can harness their pain and do something beautiful with it. She had a great father who really supported her through recovery from childhood polio. But when she had an accident around the age of 18 she began a lifelong journey of physical suffering.
Dominant in the exhibit were “Frida blue” and “Diego red.” They painted several structures in these signature colors. Diego was a mentor, later becoming a husband to Frida. He was instrumental in helping her get out of herself and create despite the pain.
From the exhibit I learned about the depth of her passion for plants. There were some wonderful examples showcasing plants that Frida would have grown. The Tucson Botanical garden is small but it’s quite mighty in its displays and use of color. For the exhibit they had created courtyard scenes that were like street gardens from where Frida grew up in Mexico. The townspeople were poor and would decorate with found objects – plastic beads, fake flowers, repurposed old tin cans. One of the activities for exhibit visitors was creating art from tin cans in imitation of Frida.
Most of Frida’s artworks were self-portraits. It was one way of expressing and finding beauty in what could be considered a painful life. She was a very strong, politically active woman. Her garden was her sanctuary from the turmoil of her public life. I too hold my garden as my place to find peace.
A centerpiece of the exhibit was this three-dimensional recreation of “The Two Fridas,” one of Frida’s most famous paintings. In it there are two figures from her two worlds (upper class Mexican and lower class Tejano) connected to oneheart. It symbolically displays the tension between her two selves and the constant turmoil from her love of an unfaithful husband. It was an amazingly passionate love they held for each other and at the same time there was a constant strain, tearing Frida apart.
I came away from the exhibit with a deeper understanding of Friday and her artwork. As a photographer with my own physical pain I can understand Frida’s need to express herself through artwork. When I have a camera in my hands it’s almost like I am in my second self. In those moments there is nothing else that enters my mind. Even physical pain will not penetrate that being “in the zone.” This is what I believe Frida felt with her paints and brushes. It was her way of being outside herself.
The “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” exhibit will be on display through August 31, 2017 at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. It’s well worth the trip.
Meet the Author
Photographer Doreen Wynja has been working over 30 years in the world of photography, experiencing with almost all types of photography. In 1990 Doreen opened her own studio called Eye of the Lady in McMinnville, She was also working closely with the Oregon Wine Industry.
In 2004 Monrovia commissioned Doreen to do some horticultural imagery for them. She eventually became their principle photographer. Having worked for 18 years in the field of viticulture, it was a welcomed change.
These days Doreen’s images are often among the pages of Garden Design Magazine, Fine Gardening, Garden Gate Magazine, and various Sunset books to name a few. She was one of the largest contributors to the recent Sunset Western Garden book, and the new Sunset Western Landscape book. Doreen is just finalizing files with Timber Press on a book coming out the end of 2017 on Northwest Garden Nursery, in Eugene, Oregon.
While yet other commercial jobs keep Doreen busy, she can often be found traveling about photographing gardens and points of interest along the way or in front of her computer working on an ever growing Horticultural Stock Library available at Eye of the Lady.