“Frida Kahlo has been a source of inspiration for me,” states renowned fashion designer Carolina Herrera. She continues, “… her vibrant use of color, sense of proportion and her whimsical style all her own.”

To honor the groundbreaking artist’s influence on her own fashion aesthetic, Herrera is sponsoring the first exhibition to ever focus on Kahlo’s appreciation for wonder and variation in the natural world. FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life will be on view at the New York Botanical Garden through November 1, 2015 and will feature a rare display of 14 paintings and works on paper. In its Conservatory, the Botanical Garden also reimagines Kahlo’s famous garden and studio at Casa Azul, her lifelong home in Mexico City.

frida kahlo self portrait nybg botanical herrera

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940. Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. © 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Kahlo’s work was always influenced by her own experience and her affinity for botany was no exception. In her art, flora and fauna was often layered with complex detail and color as she drew from her own garden which she began renovating in the 1930’s with her famous husband, Diego Rivera. Her father had planted roses and ferns. Kahlo uprooted them and populated the garden with columnar cacti, yucca, palms, agave and other plants native to Mexico. She was an avid and skilled gardener with a keen aesthetic. She even constructed an Aztec-inspired step pyramid in the middle of the garden to feature Rivera’s collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts.

Guest curated by distinguished art historian and specialist in Mexican art, Adriana Zavala, Ph.D., this is the first Kahlo exhibit in New York in more than ten years. Works on display will include Two Nudes in a Forest, Portrait of Luther Burbank and, perhaps the most recognizable, Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird. The latter displays Kahlo in a thick, lush environment with winged flowers hovering over her head like cherubs, a thorn necklace cladding her clavicle with a dead hummingbird hanging as a pendant. Kahlo’s throat is bleeding from the thorns which seem to be held in place by the monkey on her shoulder and it is notable that a hummingbird, so often seen dashing from flower to flower, is now lifeless around her neck.
This is just one example of the intense symbolism present in the iconic artist’s work, which served as an outlet for her emotions and the chronic physical pain she suffered throughout her life. Accompanying programs invite visitors to learn discover Kahlo’s Mexico through lectures, poetry, unique dining experiences and experiential activities for kids. Visitors will also get to peruse photos of Kahlo’s garden as it appeared during her lifetime, quotes from her about her own home, garden and the natural world. Additional sponsors include Pineda Covalin, AeroMexico, Univision and Bloomberg Philanthropies.