18th July 2017: Study Day: Art, Life and Feasting
We were the lucky ones! We ‘visited’ the Mexican home of Frida Kahlo, guided by Carole Pook (art and life) and Rosie Hurcombe (feasts) and went home with our senses tingling.

Carole’s talk gave us a fascinating insight into this extraordinary woman and artist. We heard of her early life in an artistic household, her ambition to study medicine after falling victim to Polio, her political education at school and her intense relationships, first with a school friend then with an established artist twenty years her senior whom she married. Her relationship with Diego Rivera was based on a fascination for his work and her own creative life fed on his/their espousal of left-wing causes and interest in Mexican history and folk art. This combination of interests remained with her throughout her troubled, damaged life.

Biographical details are presented unflinchingly in Frida’s work: her physical suffering after a ghastly road accident; her miscarriages; her sense of betrayal when Diego took up with her sister are all recorded on her small canvasses. Though the scale may be small, the emotional impact is huge. Those of us who were new to her work found the personal imagery shocking but also inspiring, as if she represented not only her sufferings but those of all women.

Self portraits are a common subject of Frida’s and the sense of glamour and style are striking. Her hair adornments, her choice of fabric and identification with Mexican costume make for sensual, exotic pictures. Colour, drama and originality are paramount and it will be interesting to appreciate this in the V& A’s exhibition.

Frida brought the same love of colour and exotic flavour to food. She painted food in still-life form with strong sexual symbolism. Our cookery demonstrator, Rosie, made 6 dishes published in Frida Kahlo’s cookbook : meatballs in chipotle sauce, chicken in peanut sauce, vegetable soup with an egg torte, macaroni in a spinach and cream sauce, langues du chat biscuits and a sweet flan with a fruit salad topping. These delicious recipes were deftly prepared, beautifully presented and savoured by us all.

Many thanks to Carole and Rosie for all their careful research and preparation for this unique and inspiring day.

Claire Sarkies