1. People can get a bit possessive about Kahlo.

….and I am no exception. Crowds of people milling around small portraits reminded me of jocks clamoring around a popular girl at a party. Kahlo’s work has its own presence and you don’t want to share her with anyone. When someone would crowd my space, I questioned their right to hang out with my Frida. And I experienced the same looks from bystanders myself.

2. Audio tours don’t have to suck

I thought I was too punk-rock for an audio tour, however I’m glad I took up the silly looking headset for some genuinely insightful commentary. There’s the plummy voiced curator who does all the contextual natterings (and jolly good natterings they are) and there’s also commentary by female artists like Patti Smith about how Kahlo inspires their work.

3. Don’t assume you know Kahlo’s paintings

….because seeing them close up is a whole new experience. Before the exhibit, I would claim My Dress Hangs There to be one of my favorite Kahlo works. It still is, but I didn’t realize how ignorant I was about all the little details. Other works, like Moses, have a mandala-like complexity that gift books seem to miss.

4. Look at the frames!

Another detail that I’d completely missed is how Kahlo deploys the pictures frames – such as the thick red blood splattered in “Just a Few Nips”

5. “ex voto

Kahlo’s affinity with indigenous Mexican traditions is well-documented, although I didn’t know about how she uses the specific tradition of ex-voto. Ex voto is (according to my notes scribbled on a museum flyer) religious paintings/painted on tin/ given in thanks to saints for answered prayers/. You can see some examples and more info here. This is a whole tradition of “outsider art” and there are some anonymous ex-votos featured in the exhibit. Could ex-votos reveal a “hidden tradition” of women artists? Maybe. Kahlo draws from this tradition, using the same naive style and tin materials, perhaps with a slightly ironic smile.

6. Kahlo is timeless

Yes, it’s a cliched thing to say about an artist. But hey, I found I needed to remind myself over and over of the time in which Kahlo painted. For I always imagine her to be more contemporary than what she was, thinking she could still be alive and 80 years old somewhere. But the exhibit marks 100 years since her birth. I think it’s her unflinching subjectivity that keeps her outside time. Because she paints of her own truths: a pained body, a co-dependent relationship, her own reflection; her work doesn’t seem to age the way other works might.

7. This is how to “do” a retrospective

This is a thorough, well-thought out exhibit that leaves one well satisfied. It’s not like other retrospectives I’ve been to, where there’s only one or two “star” pieces amongst dregs of unfamiliar, boring bits. The Philadelphia exhibit does Kahlo’s most popular works justice, with enough background info and lesser-known pieces to truly celebrate Frida Kahlo.


Opening this weekend: a photography exhibit featuring the work of 31 female photographers under the age of 31. Ready for another number? The show is at 3rd Ward in Williamsburg, BK.


The show runs March 1-28, 2008
Opening March 1, 2008 at 3rd Ward from 7p-10p RSVP: 31@ladieslotto.com
Press review: 6 – 7 pm, Public reception: 7 – 9 pm, After party: 9 – 12 am


From the press release:

” The exhibition presents an eclectic mix of emerging talent, culled from open submissions.”

So the Oscars were pretty lame this year. Maybe they needed some Guerilla Girl action. Remember them?

Clad in trademark gorilla masks, this feminist-art group is perhaps the first and finest of the Culture Jammers movement. Amongst their triumphs is this huge billboard poster proclaiming: The Anatomically Correct Oscar: He’s White and Male, Just Like The Guys Who Win


In 1989, the Guerilla Girls challenged the Met Museum on their lack of representation of female artists. “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?” they asked on NYC bus ads. Almost 85% of the Mets nudes were female compared with only 5% female artists. In 2005, The Met had less female artists, but the Guerilla Girls noted that the “weenie count” for nudes had improved!


So what are they up to these days? Seems the Guerilla Girls suffered internal tensions resulting in several splinter groups and a trademark dispute.

There are signs that the group is still kicking – the updated website reveals a pretty full date book of workshops and events, so check ’em out in a town near you!

Other sites

Guerrilla Girls at the Feminist Future Symposium, MoMA (YouTube)

New Yorker article on the Guerilla Girl split and court case.

A new exhibit just opened at the Brooklyn Museum’s Sackler Center for Feminist Art. We hear it’s mostly made up of photos, suffragette newsletters and handwritten notes. Based on that info we think this might feel more like a field trip than a day at the art museum. But the curators have found a way to spice it up: dial a special code on your cell phone to hear recorded excerpts from the suffragette’s historical speeches as you browse through the gallery.


For political junkies it will be a nice break from staying in and watching the current Hillary vs. Barack drama unfolding on cable news.

1200710837.jpg Chris Jordan’s barbie image is extremely striking– I had to look at it twice before I scrolled down and processed what I was seeing. He isn’t a female artist (as per girlartindex) but the other pieces in the series are so great, I just had to link.

Extreme Embroidery (showing until April 2008 @ Museum of Art and Design) is a showcase of contemporary artists who are transforming and re-deploying this traditional handcraft. The result is a colorful, sexy and subversive arrangement that takes us from contemporary politics to dreamy, personal histories.

The Dutch artist, Tilleke Schwarz describes her work as “visual poetry” and that’s a pretty accurate description of the whole exhibit. Schwarz’s work is fun: her fragmented, scrawling needlework includes Butthead (from Beavis and Butthead) and extracts from an angry letter sent to the editor of Embroidery magazine.


Tilleke Schwarz Count your Blessings (detail), 2003
Photo: Rob Mostert


Tilleke Schwarz, Into the Woods (detail), 2002
Photo: Rob Mostert


Andrea Dezsö, My Grandmother Loved Me Even Though …, 2005-2006
Photo: Andrea Dezsö

Like Schwarz, Andrea Dezsö‘s work Lessons From My Mother is deeply personal: the artist renders her Transylvanian mother’s “folk wisdom” in a series of embroidered squares. Each square follows the refrain “My Mother Claimed That…” followed by her mother’s superstitions and aphorisms.

Sometimes it’s hilarious; my personal favorite is “My Mother Claimed That…she talked about the vet in Romanian because she didn’t want to upset the cat who understood Hungarian”. Each aphorism is illustrated with Kahlo-esque little pictures, and combined with the repetitive refrain, it has the same anticipatory delight of a children’s book.

There are strong pieces of a political bent; in particular Xiang Yang’s striking work in which thousands of rainbow threads stretch horizontally between the heads of George Bush and Saddam Hussein. Maria E. Piñeres meditates on media culture through needlepoint celebrity mugshots (such as Paris Hilton and Mel Gibson), bringing gravitas to tabloid subjects, with the tiny details you’d expect from pastoral scene framed in your Aunt Veda’s lounge room.


Laura Splan, Trousseau (Negligee #1), 2007
Collection of the artist

Laura Splan’s work is a triumph of lateral thinking. At first glance, Splan’s work Doilies look surprising quaint until you realize that the doily lace is designed from the molecular structures of human viruses: herpes, AIDS and SARS.

Another work, Trousseau (Negligee #1) is a white slip dress, again a quaint object, and then you learn that the material is not chiffon. It is, and I kid you not, cosmetic skin peel. The artist covered her whole body in a peel-off mask and then removed it “as one large hide” (very Silence of the Lambs). On closer inspection, the material retains the porous texture of Splan’s skin, complete with goose bumps and hairs.

This eerie take on everyday objects gives these works an unsettling presence – they’re familiar, but not necessarily friendly. It’s brilliant.

This exhibit has been extended until April 2008, so get down to the Museum of Art and Design for this very curious and rewarding collection.

WACK opens!


The WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution show opened yesterday at PS. 1 in Queens and we plan on attending some of the many events they are having throughout the month. The show is reviewed in the New York Times today.

Here are a few things we are interested in seeing:


“Nature Girls (Jumping Janes)” /Martha Rosler. A photomontage series made from 1966 to 1972.


“Pintura Habitada (Inhabited Painting),” /Helena Almeida/ 1975