Frida Kahlo began painting to channel her pain as she recovered in a full-body cast for three months after being injured during a bus accident in 1922. Using vibrant colors, she visualized her physical pain through her self-portraits as she lived through her disability.
She would also use her art to reflect on her marriage to Diego Rivera, another famous Mexican artist, and her numerous extramarital relationships with men and women.
Those portrayals of her emotional and physical pains shot Frida into artistic stardom. Throughout her life, Frida created 200 paintings, drawings and sketches. Her work has inspired artists in the LatinX, LGBTQ+ and disability communities worldwide.
However, a new immersive exhibit hopes to shed new, familial light on her life and to show the world Frida's strength, joy and persistence, says Mara R. Kahlo, Frida's grandniece.
"[Our family] doesn't see a suffering Frida," she said. "We see a Frida who is happy and always moving forward. She lived passionately."
The Immersive Frida Kahlo, set to debut at the Lighthouse ArtSpace on Feb. 24, intermixes Frida's art and historical images provided by the Kahlo family over an original composition written for the experience.
"We want people to take away a piece of Tía Frida and to know her better," said Mara de Anda, Mara's daughter and Frida's great-grandniece.
Mara never had the chance to meet her tía as an adult, but knew of her kindness, strength, and courage from stories passed by her grandmother, CristinaFrida's sister.
"Tia Frida wrote me a letter and said that I was the most beautiful baby in this world," said Mara.
Frida's legacy was ever-present in Mara's and de Anda's lives. Both work at the Fundación Familia Kahlo, a familial organization headed by Mara, to continue teaching the world about Frida's legacy through new projects.
De Anda explained that Frida and Cristina indirectly established the Fundación as they would hold weekly "canastas básicas", or market baskets, distributions every Saturday for the women, specifically single mothers, of their town. The basket contained survival basics such as sugar, rice and oil.
In a similar spirit, the Fundacion of today focuses on helping create new projects that continue Frida's legacy as an artist and bring awareness to women's issues.
"Whatever project we have in hand has to have the heart of Frida," de Anda said.
La Fundacion teamed up with the Lighthouse Immersive last year to create the Immersive Frida Kahlo.
The exhibition is divided into three parts for an in-depth exploration into each pillar of Frida's lifeher upbringing during the Mexican Revolution, her marriage to Diego, and her family relationshipsas a way to humanize her and contextualize her work.
"[The show] is beautiful because you get to see the history of Mexico and you can, finally, better understand Frida. She lived through a revolution and helped those less fortunate. You can better understand her as a human than as an artist," said Mara. "But, you can also see her paintings and their little details, which gives you a better idea of Frida's heart and see why she paints and how it relates to the life she was living."
The mother and daughter duo hopes that Frida's story and art will remind people the importance of persevering through this new way to experience her art.
"Frida symbolizes strength, represents empowerment and living how you want regardless of what you may face. She shows that everyone can find the passion in life, embrace the hardships, and continue, " de Anda said.
Tickets are available now; visit www.immersive-frida.com/chicago/ .