A celebration of Frida Kahlo
Extravagant headdresses, flowing skirts and drawn-in unibrows abounded Saturday as “Fridamania” thrived along Morrison Road in Denver’s Westwood neighborhood.
Frida Kahlo, one of the most influential Mexican painters of the 20th century, was the inspiration behind the Frida Kahlo Celebration of Life Art Show. She is also celebrated in several permanent neighborhood fixtures.
The area brims with cultural vibrancy evident in everything from the intricate murals on most of the buildings to the brightly painted trash cans along the sidewalks.
The event had its humble beginnings in a now-closed tattoo and art gallery owned by Santiago Jaramillo — one of the event’s curators and a third-generation resident of Westwood. He has been running the event five of its six years.
“I personally believe a lot of the things that Frida stood for,” he said. “For me to be able to honor her memory that way — and so close to her birthday (July 6) — it’s really meaningful to me.”
The colorful mercadito on Morrison Road and run by Westwood Food Cooperative has hosted the event for the past three years.
Artist of all ages and experience levels submitted their works into the gallery — at $5 per entry — and offered the pieces at a price of their choosing. Thirty percent of the proceeds will go to Bucu West, an organization that helped fund the event and works with local lawmakers to enhance the Morrison corridor.
“Anyone could enter,” said Crystal O’brien, one of the curators. “Beginning, emerging and professional artists, we kept it open to everyone, and it’s really interesting in the paintings to see how artists interpret Frida in different ways.”
Fourteen-year-old Annabelle Gayle was the youngest contributing artist, with a starkly beautiful, bright-blue Kahlo portrait.
Annabelle, who also was selling jewelry and handmade cards, was inspired by Frida at a young age and exhibits her work at other shows and First Fridays in the Santa Fe Arts District.
“She is one of the most famous Mexican artists and she is mixed race like me,” Annabelle said. “I get a lot of criticism for being mixed, and she probably did, too,”
Vendors sold baked goods and Kahlo-inspired wares. The event also featured music performed by Jon Romero y Amanecer, and free food provided by Kahlo’s Mexican restaurant.
For Jaramillo, the event is a way to expose his community to the arts and to things that he didn’t see growing up in the neighborhood.
Many admire Kahlo’s work exploring questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class and race in Mexican society and her uncompromising depiction of the female experience.
A look-alike contest was held — not only for the best-dressed Kahlo but also for the one who gave the best answers about how Kahlo inspired them.
Andrea Mujica of Parker wasn’t able to attend the event last year but made sure to follow the event’s Facebook page so she wouldn’t miss it this year.
“I’ve just always been a huge fan of Frida as an artist and feminist,” she said. “I’ve always felt a special connection with her and her story and her art. I connect with the trauma and pain that is concealed in her paintings that are so provocative and colorful.”
Visitors on Saturday dress up for a photo booth during a celebration of the life and work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo at the Westwood Food Cooperative along Morrison Road in the Denver neighborhood.