Frida's Fragrance: Art, Scent, & Persona

Photo by Lucienne Bloch

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), one of the most famous artists of the twentieth century, is celebrated for her groundbreaking self-portraits, her proud embodiment of her Mexican heritage, her political activism, and her persistence in the face of physical disability. She has been the subject of many books, exhibitions, documentaries, even a Hollywood film. Our knowledge of Kahlo as an artist and a woman is extensive. However, new sources of information were revealed in 2004, when the Museo Frida Kahlo opened two rooms of Kahlo’s home that had been sealed since her death. The contents of those rooms included previously unknown works of art, hundreds of photographs, personal papers, and personal possessions such as garments, jewelry, and cosmetics---material that recently has been featured in new publications and exhibitions.

The “rediscovery” of these intimate belongings---particularly her clothing---has expanded our understanding of Kahlo’s deliberate, meaningful self-presentation in her art and life. And if we can analyze Kahlo’s multi-layered identity through her choice of regional Mexican dress, for example, what can we say about her collection of perfumes? Similar to fashion, scent can be a form of self-expression, a means of shaping and sharing a persona.

In this “show and smell” Olio, we will sample five perfumes owned by Kahlo while viewing examples of her art. Hearing the back-story and cultural context of each perfume, we will draw analogies between the scent and Kahlo’s image. Can an olfactory exploration of Kahlo’s favorite fragrances further enhance our appreciation of this iconic artist?




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Dec 18

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Dec 19

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Taught by Kim Nguyen
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Feb 14

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