frida kahlo, the gardener

150525_r26548-320Peter Schjeldahl at The New Yorker:

Kahlo’s gardening was of a piece with her art, in asserting a nationalist mythos that extended even to her menagerie of pets: monkeys, parrots, turkeys, an eagle, and a pack of dogs that included Mexican hairless Xoloitzcuintles. What Rivera did on a monumental public scale, in murals picturing Mexico’s storied past and hoped-for future, Kahlo performed—and lived—privately. Even some of the nonnative plants in her garden told apposite stories. Calla lilies came to Mexico with slaves from Africa, and Chinese chrysanthemums arrived aboard Spanish galleons. By today’s gardening standards, not much of the show’s flora is particularly exotic. Even less is what you could call understated. Like everything else about Kahlo, her horticulture commands attention and rewards it with jolts of vicarious, insatiable ardor, if you open your eyes, mind, and heart to her.

Kahlo today inhabits international culture at variable points on a sliding scale between sainthood and a brand. The Botanical Garden show, besides being beautiful, can seem either reverential or exploitative. It’s really both, to a degree beyond the institution’s previous star-powered exhibitions devoted to the gardens of Charles Darwin, Claude Monet, and Emily Dickinson.

more here.