Are you a fan of any dead people? I’m not talking about ghosts and zombies. I mean people like actors, artists and writers who are no longer with us, but you still admire their work. People like Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Picasso, Laura Ingalls Wilder, etc. Last week I got to have a fan girl experience with some artists that passed away long before I was born and I loved it!
My family and I visited the Detroit Institute of Arts. While there is art from many fascinating artists, but by far my favorite area was Rivera Court. It is a two-story tall room filled with the Detroit Industry fresco created by famed Mexican artist, Diego Rivera. The mural was spectacular and I could have spent hours looking at it. Rivera believed that art should be displayed in public places, instead of kept in the homes of the rich. He was a very controversial artist in his time and some of his murals were even removed in places like New York City, as he often used his murals as a sort of protest against what he thought was wrong with the world. There were people that wanted the murals removed from DIA, but thankfully they have remained.
I have admired Rivera’s art for many years, but I wouldn’t have learned about him if I hadn’t become a fan of his wife first. Frida Kahlo’s popularity has soared in recent years. Images of her, the iconic braids and uni-brow eyebrows make her instantly recognizable, can be found on everything from postcards to paper dolls. That wasn’t the case 25 years ago when I saw a documentary on her and was fascinated by her life and passion for living. Many of her paintings are self-portraits and she used them as a sort of healing journal to cope with things like miscarriages and debilitating surgeries following an almost fatal accident when she was a teen. Some of the images are raw and disturbing, but so are the ordeals that inspired her to paint them.
Rivera often included images of famous people in his frescoes, including himself and Frida. While she isn’t in the mural in Detroit, he is. Even though Frida was not depicted on the walls of the room I swear I could feel her presence. She and Diego spent a year in Detroit as he painted. I’m sure she spent a lot of time in that room while he worked and I swear I could feel both of their spirits still present in the court. That sounds rather new age woo-woo, but I don’t know how else to explain it. Standing in the sun-filled room, knowing that I was standing on the same ground that they stood on at one time, was in a word…amazing.
In 2015 the DIA will be doing a huge exhibit of both Diego and Frida’s work. One article I read said the curator was trying to set it up so every piece of artwork Frida did will be on display. I will absolutely be visiting the art institute then, but I would like to go back before that time, too. The place is full of creative spirits or at least the spirit of creativity.