Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lourdes Moreno: Las Fridas de Frida

Olga García Echeverría

El Transporte:

The sun has no mercy as it blares down on Tijuana. Two women in a car have been stuck in traffic for hours, inching their way towards the border. When they finally reach the check point, they hand over their papers to a border patrol agent. They’re artists transporting art pieces. They’re not doing anything illegal, not really, but it’s complicated, so when the agent asks if they’re bringing anything back from Mexico, the driver answers, “A bunch of centerpieces for my wedding.” She’s such a bad liar. She meant to say “for a wedding,” just like they planned earlier. It’s a slight, perhaps insignificant, slip up but it makes her nervous. She fidgets. She smiles awkwardly. She feels the blood rush to her face.

“Open the trunk, please.”

When she does, he sees that it’s jam packed with cardboard boxes. Anything could be inside them—weapons of mass destruction, counterfeit designer shoes, bags of powdery cocaine, neatly packaged marijuana, box loads of antibiotics with no prescription. Imagine the day’s excitement if he found any of those things. Border patrol glory.

He opens up one of the boxes carefully, but instead of finding drugs or explosives, he finds himself face to face with a full-body, hand-painted clay calaca. She’s tucked into the box with protective wrapping, but anyone who knows anything about Mexican art would instantly recognize her—Frida.

Frida of the thick eyebrows and flowered hair. Frida of the paintbrush and the bleeding heart. Frida of the twisted braids and the broken column. Frida of the jungle of monkeys and parrots. Frida of the painted corset. Frida of protest. Ubiquitous Frida.

He opens up another box and still does not recognize her, even though she’s wearing one of her typical embroidered dresses from Oaxaca. She has her mouth wide open, as if laughing in his face. “A ver, ¡depόrtame cabrόn!”

He puts down the calacas and closes the trunk. “These are pretty morbid wedding centerpieces,” he says to the driver.

“Hmmm. Yeah. It’s a take off from Day of the Dead. You know Day of the Dead? We celebrate that a lot. My family’s from Michoacan. She’s from Michoacán too.” The driver points to Lourdes, the passenger in the car and the creator of the clay Fridas. “You know Michoacán?” the driver asks the agent.

He looks puzzled and nods.

“¡Que va saber ese buey de Michoacán!” yells Frida from the trunk of the car. The driver and Lourdes hold back their risa. They’re wondering if the agent heard that.

“Have a good day,” says the agent as he shoos them away.

Y vamonos, porque these two women are on a mission, an art mission that is.

The Frida and Diego Exhibition:

Well, maybe Lourdes Moreno’s dead Fridas don’t actually talk (to everyone), but I stood in front of one yesterday and I swear she spoke to me. If you are in Los Angeles, you can see and judge for yourself because Ms. Moreno’s Fridas are on display at ChimMaya Gallery in East Los Angeles. It wasn’t easy transporting these delicate clay figurines all the way from Uruapan, Michoacán, pero llegaron unbroken and ready to shine. The show at ChimMaya, which begins today at 3:00 PM, is honoring and celebrating the lives of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. This group exhibition is sure to push Frida fanatics over the edge. Aside from Lourdes Moreno, 35 other artists will be showcasing their artistic interpretations on Frida and Diego. To learn more about the exhibit and the other artists visit:

ChimMaya Gallery
5283 East Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles CA 90022
(2 blocks East of Atlantic Blvd)

Lourdes Moreno: The Artist and Her Fridas

Lourdes Moreno, born and raised in Uruapan, Michoacán, has been making clay calacas for the past 10 years. Three years ago, she began a series that pays homage to Frida. Here she is answering a few questions about her Frida series.

Why did you decide to create a Frida series?

It took me a long time to do the Frida series. I thought about it a lot because I realize that she’s become very commercial. I didn’t want to do a commercial Frida because I have a lot of respect and admiration for her. I wanted to create a series that would really honor her.

Frida is everywhere nowadays—on t-shirts, purses, posters, mouse pads, to name just a few things. With such commercialization, it’s easy to forget the actual person behind the icon. What does Frida represent to you?

For me, she represents an incredibly strong woman who fought against her own suffering to create art and movement. She was truly a revolutionary woman. We definitely need more Fridas in the world. I’m very proud that Frida is Mexican and that she was someone who loved and appreciated the traditional art of our country. Today she’s all over the world. I’m not so crazy about her commercialization, but I believe that those of us who see beyond the image are able to talk about her in another dimension, as the human being that she was, and not just as a souvenir.

When did you begin the series and is there any significance in regards to the timing of your project?

I began this series three years ago to mark Frida’s 100th birthday. At first I made one Frida and then another. The idea of a series evolved as I became more engaged in the Fridas. This year, 2010, also marks the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. As most people know, Frida was a very political person. She always wanted to be born in the year of the Mexican Revolution and was known to add three years to her birthday, so that the dates would coincide. It was important for me to exhibit this series this year, so that I could honor Frida and her wish to be reborn in the year of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.

Will you be exhibiting your work in Mexico?

I’d like very much to exhibit this series in Mexico, specifically in Frida’s Blue House in Coyoacan. It’s a bit ambitious, but not impossible.

What is the role of art in our world today?

I profoundly believe that art can shift us into a new direction, another energy, another way of existing that is more harmonious and just. We can transform things and people with art. I am not talking about commercial art because not everyone who picks up a paintbrush is an artist. What is happening in Arizona in regards to anti-immigrant legislation, for example, is a reflection of a crisis that is occurring world wide. We are passing through very intense moments. I don’t even believe there should be borders anywhere in the world. Art is like this—borderless. Art can reach the human heart. Art can create consciousness and it is consciousness that we are currently missing as human beings.

And if Frida were here?

If Frida was here, she’d be marching with us, and in actually she is here with us. She has left us her legacy—a celebration of la vida y la lucha.

After we wrapped up our short interview, Lourdes immediately got back to work. She had to add the finishing touches to one of her Fridas. I watched her paint two large hands wrapped around Frida’s shoulders and back, the fingers branching out like feathered wings. Maybe I was hearing things, but I swear I heard that little Frida say, “Para que quiero papeles si tengo alas para volar.”


Debbie Garcia said...

Olga, great blog! I wish Lourdes Moreno great success. I've traveled all over Michoacán and stayed in Uruanpan while in the state. The entire state and surrounding cities are just amazing, as are the local artists and communities where they thrive.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful read!!! Loved the story with its contemporary political connections on border xrossing art and Frida's politics. Looking forward to the exhibition where maybe I too get to hear Frida's grito, "Que viva la Revolucion cabrones," as she flies across the gallery.

msedano said...

i hope i can squeeze in a quick visit to chimmaya today. that annual frida show always fabulous. this year's screams out loud, "fabulous! compre arte!" and so i shall if someone doesn't beat me to the one i like.


Viva Liz Vega! said...

Love it! Great column and a wonderful artist. Hope I can make it to the show.

Pris said...

I would love to know more about these, ie where they're on sale and if they're in my price range. I admire Frida so much, too.

msedano said...

pris: chimmaya gallery is in east l.a. Here's a La Bloga column by way of introduction:

and if you loved the lead foto, las tres fridas, i loved it too. and bought it.

but every individual ceramic comes with its own charm and "gotta have it" character, and i believe the collection did not sell out. yet.


J Michael said...

Great to hear of my dear friend Lourdes' work and showing in LA! That's a fine blog entry, Olga. Gracias.