“Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden, is the only Kansas City-area venue to host Frida Kahlo’s Garden, an in-depth exhibition focusing on the influences and inspirations behind Frida Kahlo’s (1907–1954) body of work.” Here’s a sampling of that exhibit which is both biographical and educational.
Books on a Table
Oil on canvas
John Frederick Peto
John Frederick Peto painted still life arrangements almost exclusively, a choice likely inspired by its strong tradition in his native Philadelphia, begun almost a century earlier by the Peale family.
Books on a Table presents a variety of objects associated with a gentleman's study. Precariously balanced, the arrangement suggests contemplation, if not lament, of the end of the 19th century. The quill pen and candle mark technologies that were antiquated by 1900. The magically turning pages of the book at the apex of the composition invoke the passage of time. The isolated and neglected objects may also symbolize the painter himself, who created his art in virtual seclusion.
"In this lithograph, Raphael Soyer represented himself at work on a portrait of a model, while his subject dresses in the foreground. The artist’s face is turned, and his portrait is characterized not by his features but by the vigor with which he works. The print captures the isolation that pervades the urban scenes Soyer painted in the 1940s. Even as the artist delights in the form of his model’s body on his canvas, he is entirely separated from her physical presence in his studio."
Winding Up (1836)
William Sidney Mount
William Sidney Mount was the most highly esteemed painter of American daily life before the Civil War. Using meticulous brushwork, he composed Winding Up similar to a theater set, and the figures mimic stage characters of the day. The man represents Yankee Jonathan, a country-bumpkin type. His hat remains on his head even indoors, and his handkerchief sticks out of his pocket. The woman, however, appears in her finest clothing, which Mount drew from earlier costume sketches.
The title Winding Up has a double meaning. It refers to the ball of yarn the woman winds from the skein around her suitor's hands and to the stage of their courtship. The artist, however, leaves it to the viewer to guess the final outcome of the relationship.
Clarity Haynes a Brooklyn-based painter, focuses on non-traditional images and ideas of womanhood, beauty, sexuality and gender expression.‘The Breast Portrait Project’ also explores illness, aging, mortality and the shifting nature of the body. Clarity explains: “I am interested in the many ways the body changes throughout a lifetime, and in the ways in which we create and change our bodies”. 🎀
Rene Leighty’s exhibit, “The Reality of Motherhood,” depicts the changes that occur in a women’s body that come naturally when having children. The artist describes her artwork as contemporary, expressive, dramatic, personal, and more importantly, demonstrates the reality of motherhood. “I used repetitive lines and shapes to display an appearance of movement and merged together a layering of multiple images in graphite and charcoal,” said Leighty. “The process is similar to the triple exposure technique in photography, with a repetition of recognizable body parts and overlapping imagery in my descriptions of a hectic life.”
Lime Line-with its eye-popping colors, dynamic geometry, optical rhythms and spatial complexity-is a far cry from the cool, reductive, stable structures of Minimalism. Dean Fleming was part of a New York group called Park Place. They explored pictorial space, the ideas of Buckminster Fuller (inventor of the geodesic dome), Space Age technology, science fiction, Einstein's Theory of Relativity and related concepts of fourth dimensional space-time. Fleming believed hard-edge abstraction was the language of contemporary culture.