The Life of Icon Frida Kahlo: An Immersive Biography


by Debbie Stone


Immersive exhibitions are the hot ticket these days, attracting crowds of eager folks seeking experiences that engage multiple senses and encourage interaction. The unprecedented success of the Van Gogh immersive shows proves there is a voracious appetite for these types of productions.

On the heels of Van Gogh now comes “Frida Kahlo, an Immersive Biography.” The show, which toured in Canada and Europe is now in the U.S. I had a first look at it when it recently opened in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Using a combination of digital art, historical photos, film, projections, and installations, accompanied by a virtual reality experience, the exhibition strives to showcase the relevant highlights of one of the most influential artists in history.

Visitors walk through seven transformational spaces, taking them on a journey through the renowned Mexican artist’s life. It’s an opportunity to go beneath the surface of this unique, multifaceted woman, who embraced her true self and lived life on her own terms. This was a woman who broke conventions and tore down stereotypes, a feminist before the feminism movement, an activist before women dared express their views on politics, and a genuine woman of the world.

You’ll learn that Frida was able to overcome great adversity thanks to her perseverance, strength, rebellion, and talent. Her story captivates, surprises, and inspires people, many of whom were unaware of the challenges she overcame.

Frida carved out her own place in the world and stood proudly as a woman in art. Her paintings were influenced by a fierce love of her Mexican culture and rooted in an exploration of her own psyche. She is especially known for her bold and vibrant self-portraits, which she used to express deeply personal and emotional issues, often taboo subjects.

The exhibition gives visitors an insight into the artist as a child, then later as a young woman, and much later as a celebrated artist and cultural icon. It starts with a space dedicated to her biography, with different colored walls emphasizing specific parts of her life or her identity.

  • A kaleidoscope of color
    A kaleidoscope of color

Frida, who was riddled with medical ailments, suffered from polio as a young child, and then at the age of eighteen, she was involved in a near-fatal accident on a public bus. Left with serious spinal and pelvis damage, she was confined to bed in a body cast for months on end and endured several operations that led to her infertility. It was during this time of confinement and intense rehabilitation that she began to paint. And painting became a means of communication and expression. She powered through the pain and suffering and created astonishing works of art in the ensuing years until her death at just 47 years old.

Frida’s traumas are interpreted first in chaotic, fragmented “Wizard of Oz” tornado-hits-Kansas style fashion, then in a 3D installation that presents elements of birth, blood, pain, and the accident, which are all connected through tree branches. These branches turn red, resembling blood veins.

In another room, visitors, both kids and adults, are invited to color in a portrait of Frida with markers, which is then uploaded on-site for those interested in sharing their results. It was wonderful to see the number of visitors, young and old, who enthusiastically opted to get their creative juices flowing.

The main projection/installation space bathes visitors in a tapestry of vivid colors, with a montage of photos of Frida at different stages of her life, alone and at times with her husband, the prominent muralist Diego Rivera. Images from her travels and her work are interspersed and music accompanies the projections, along with quotes from Frida. The experience was mesmerizing and as I looked around, I could see others were equally spellbound.

Those who choose to add on the virtual reality component are in for another breathtaking treat that further enhances the immersion. This journey depicts her environment in dreamlike states, her pictorial world, and the characteristic imagery/symbols of her work. Elements are shown in different planes, so it’s important to look behind or above you throughout this journey. I felt totally in the moment and caught myself reaching out a few times with my hand, which must have looked quite funny to others outside the VR area! Note: If you have a tendency towards vertigo, you might want to skip this experience.

There’s also a quirky photo booth and photo displays that you can pose within to capture yourself in a Frida-like setting.

Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, and regular contributor for Big Blend Radio and Big Blend Magazines, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness, and more. Her travels have taken her to nearly 100 countries and all seven continents.

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About the Author:

Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, and regular contributor for Big Blend Radio and Big Blend Magazines, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners.

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