Below the Line

A Tribute to Frida Kahlo, Gardener

By CJ LotzJanuary 6, 2017
Credits below.

Most people know Frida Kahlo for her paintings—and iconic unibrow. You might not know that the acclaimed Mexican artist was also a passionate gardener. In her backyard paradise, she tended oleander and scented geraniums and plucked roses and marigolds to weave in her hair (she was way ahead of the floral crown trend.) 

Kahlo in the courtyard of Casa Azul, c. 1951. Photograph by Guillermo Zamora. Courtesy Vincent Wolf Photography Collection

Today, visitors flock to Casa Azul, Kahlo’s home-and-garden-turned museum in Coyoacán, Mexico City, to see the tropical oasis she created. But for those who can’t venture that far South, the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, planted a green space in tribute to Kahlo’s as part of the current exhibition, Frida Kahlo at the Dalí, which runs through April 17.

Cacti and marigolds at the Avant-Garden. Photograph ©2016 – Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL

The exhibition includes fifteen of Kahlo’s paintings, seven drawings, and a large collection of personal photographs. Outside, visitors can meander the museum’s Avant-Garden to discover plants that Kahlo loved: canna lilies, oleander, agave, and cacti. The botanicals are meant to conjure the spirit of the artist, whose art focused on the surreal and dreamlike experience of beauty in nature. “She would go out every day to tend her flowers and plants,” the museum’s executive director Hank Hine says. “Her garden was an essential part of her identity and life.”

The terraced structure and plants reference Kahlo’s Mexico City garden. Photograph ©2016 – Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL

Kahlo also kept a zoo of pets—hairless dogs, monkeys, and chickens. She and her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera, collected indigenous art and built a tiered temple inspired by ancient Mexico in Casa Azul’s courtyard. The Dalí Museum’s garden also includes a terraced structure as homage to Kahlo’s dedication to her heritage. “We’re trying to give the sensibility of her life and her environment,” Hine says.

Frida Kahlo at The Dalí is Florida’s first solo exhibition of Kahlo’s work. The museum will also host a tequila tasting, films, and cooking events related to the artist. For more information about these events, click here

Top image: Autorretrato con changuito (Self Portrait with Small Monkey), 1945, Oil on composite board. Courtesy Collection Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City © 2016 Banco de México Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Frida Kahlo, 1945 [seated next to a lithographic stone of Diego Rivera’s 1930 self-portrait, Casa Azul]. Photograph by Lola Álvarez Bravo, ©1995 Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona Foundation. Vicente Wolf Photography Collection; Frida Kahlo. Unidentified photographer, Vicente Wolf Photography Collection.