Photographs of Frida Kahlo’s House Show Paint and Blood
See what Graciela Iturbide found in the legendary Casa Azul.
Intimate photographs taken in Frida Kahlo‘s private house in Mexico City reveal a string of personal objects stained with paint and blood. The poignant series was taken by Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide, who won the prestigious Hasselblad Award in photography in 2008. Iturbide is one of the featured artists in the seventh season of “Art in the 21st Century,” PBS’s television series made in collaboration with art film producer Art21. The season kicks off on October 24 with the “Investigation” episode, in which Iturbide opens up about her experience documenting Frida Kahlo’s most intimate environment.
In 2005, the artist was granted a week permit to photograph Casa Azul (“Blue House”), Kahlo’s home-turned-museum in Mexico City, where she was born in 1907 and died in 1954. Iturbide immersed herself in Kahlo’s private rooms and bathroom, left intact since the artist’s death, documenting the personal objects she left behind: medical supplies, artificial limbs, corsets, stuffed animals, a blood-stained gown, and even her hot-water bottle. Often paint-soiled, the objects are testament to Kahlo’s inability to separate her private life from her artistic work, in which she found solace from her constant physical pain.
Despite her fierce and adventurous character, Kahlo spent long periods of her life bedridden, suffering from a series of crippling disabilities and ill health. The bathroom, thus, took a central place in Kahlo’s life. The artist did not only use it for practical purposes, but also as the setting for several of her works, including her famous bathtub painting What I saw in the Water (1938).
Iturbide returned to photograph Kahlo’s bathroom on one further occasion. After her first color series, which had a clear documentary slant, she went back to Kahlo’s Casa Azul in 2006 to take a series of black & white photographs, which offer a more personal and haunting look at the universe of the Mexican artist, ending with a re-enactment of What I saw in the Water. This series of 12 images was subsequently published as an artist book, published by ROSEGALLERY in 2008.
Iturbide doesn’t consider herself a “Frida-maniac.” “Despite her suffering, she painted,” Iturbide said. “And that’s what I admire.”
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