Nickolas Muray knew Frida Kahlo well; not only from the photographic portraits he took of the famous Mexican painter and her family, but also from the affair he had with her while she and Diego Rivera were married.
Now, Tariana Navas-Nieves, curator of Hispanic and Native American Art at the Fine Arts Center, feels honored to have almost 50 photographs taken by Muray on display at the FAC Modern in Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray.
"This is a rare chance to get a glimpse into her life through the eyes of someone who knew her quite intimately and who was able to capture aspects of her life and the people around her," Navas-Nieves says.
The photographs show Kahlo, born in 1907, during the late '30s and early '40s, wearing traditional Mexican dresses. She is often surrounded by her husband and sometimes her sister, one of the women with whom Rivera had an affair. A couple of reproductions of the love letters written between Kahlo and Muray are also on display.
"In terms of Frida's life, nothing was really that secret," Navas-Nieves says. "She had multiple lovers in addition to her husband Diego, and the same thing with him; he actually had numerous affairs through the time that they were together."
The items were never publicized until 1993, when Muray's daughter Mimi Muray Levitt encountered the negatives and love letters in a trunk. Both her father and Kahlo were deceased.
Muray's photographs appeared in many well-known magazines. Marilyn Monroe, Dwight Eisenhower and Babe Ruth were also a few of his famous subjects.
"He was always able to capture the mystery of the sitter, and in the case of Frida, you can tell that this was not just a sitter for him, but that there was a lot of love," Navas-Nieves says. "You can kind of see another side of Frida, a more vulnerable side of this woman, and that's quite special."
Navas-Nieves says that Muray had false hopes that his and Kahlo's affair, which lasted 10 years, would evolve.
"The interesting thing about their relationship, and actually I think you're able to see it through the photography, is that no matter how many lovers she may have had, she was always really just attached to Diego," she says. "I think they were both attached to each other, no matter what."
During the late '30s, Diego Rivera and the mural movement were at the forefront of a Mexican Renaissance in the arts. Although Kahlo never intentionally contributed to this movement, her artwork made a bold political statement.
"It's been time that's really given Frida's work the attention it deserves, as the one that was really revolutionary," she says. "That's what makes her iconic; the fact that she expressed pride in her heritage in her own way and really also pushed the boundaries of painting."
Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray
FAC Modern, 121 S. Tejon St.
July 1 through Sept. 30; opening celebration, June 30, 6-9 p.m.
Reception and screening of the movie, Frida, at Kimball's Twin Peak Theater, July 1, 12 p.m.; Lecture on the artwork of Frida Kahlo by FAC curator Tariana Navas-Nieves and movie July 3, 6 p.m.
Visit csfineartscenter.org for more.
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