Here’s a Frida Kahlo calendar, NOLAgirl said casually.
We were at the Art Resource Center (ARC) in Tempe, AZ. The ARC is a really fantastic nonprofit organization that gets art supplies in the hands of educators. Folks donate any and everything usable by young artists—popsicle sticks, fabric, greeting cards, yogurt containers, busted costume jewelry, yarn, interesting paper—and ARC volunteers give it away to art teachers. Folks who aren’t educators can shop at the ARC too, but folks not involved in teaching young artists pay a small fee or make a donation in exchange for the materials they want to take home to their studios.
It was our first visit to the ARC, although I’d wanted to go since we’d heard about it at the Practical Arts charity pie night more than a year before. (The ARC is staffed by volunteers, so it has no set hours and is only open when someone is available to unlock the doors.) NOLAgirl humored me while I opened every drawer and poked in every cubby in the place.
I got really excited when she handed me the Frida Kahlo calendar. I immediately envisioned cutting out photos of Frida and gluing them into embellished Altoids tines. They’d be like little altars, little shrines. I started thinking of what I wanted to make as “devotionals,” even though Dictionary.com tells me that’s not really what the word means.
I had a couple of Altoids-style tines, but I knew I’d need more. I put out a call to my friends and posted a request on my Facebook pages. Several people donated tins and a myriad of wonderful small objects (buttons, skulls, jewels) to use for embellishment. At the end of the RTArt Camp, I snagged a bunch of leftover scrapbooking paper that had been donated. The paper was so pretty, but it never would have occurred to me to go out and buy it. Free is such a great price!
Although I got my hands on the calendar before Christmas, I didn’t start working on the Frida devotionals until February. Even when I’m unemployed, finding time to make art can be challenging. Writing takes up a huge portion of my life, as does maintaining relationships. I wish I could stay in the house for an entire month and do nothing but create.
“Young Frida” was the first devotional I made. Frida may be a young woman in this one, but already death is watching over her. I love the yellow color scheme of this one and the heart with the strange protruding arms.
I’m really proud of the tiny Día De Los Muertos skulls present in many of the devotionals. They’re beads I had from my days of making hemp bracelets. While I was house sitting for NOLAgirl over the winter holidays, I decorated the skulls with extra fine Sharpie markers. My hand is barely steady enough for such fine work, but I think they ended up looking quite good.
Of course, my heritage is not Mexican as Frida’s was. Is it weird that a Cajun woman who wasn’t even born when the artist died is now trying to capture her essence in tiny little boxes? Maybe. But I came to this project hoping to honor Frida Kahlo. Frida drank, smoked, laughed, had sex (with men and women, biographers always seem to point out), and cursed at a time when women were expected to be demure and proper. Frida lived by her own rules, and I respect her greatly for living her life the way she wanted to live it. Learning about Frida Kahlo’s art and her life helped to free me to live my life and create my art.
Thank you, Frida. I hope I’ve made you proud.