Sometimes an art review needs a little context from the perspective of the reviewer's own historical involvement with the work being reviewed. In 1975, I visited Mexico City and discovered the works of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Almost immediately, I developed an artistic obsession with Kahlo's image.
Over the years I have created hundreds of works on that subject, including dozens of art school assignments while a student. Although the vast majority of those works were sold over the years, a few years ago I had a solo show in Washington, DC that chronicled 27 years of preparatory drawings, etchings, oil paintings, watercolors, and sculptures about Kahlo.
In 1975 my parents took their first vacation ever, at least in my memory. As Cuban exiles, the American tradition of yearly vacations was as removed from their routine as the Cuban tradition of Nochebuena is from American Christmas holiday customs. They decided to go to Mexico City for a week with another couple from New York, which is where my folks had been living since leaving Cuba as political refugees in the early '60s.
Also in 1975, I was finishing my first year in the US Navy, where I had enlisted right after high school, and was stationed aboard USS Saratoga, home ported in Mayport, Florida. I had turned down a New York State Regents Scholarship and a Boston University scholarship to satisfy my desire to see the world before I went to college.
Mexico City and its nightlife and food (and how far a dollar went) made such an impression upon my parents and their friends that the one-week trip became two, and eventually they spent nearly a month in that huge, dirty city, enjoying the food, scenery, clubs, and markets. They also asked me if I'd like to join them for a few days. Since they were paying for it, I got a few days leave and flew to Mexico City for about five days of my own, unexpected vacation.
I hardly spent any time with them. As a 19-year-old, my interests were more focused on girls, cheap booze, and plenty of great things to do. It was while visiting a museum during the last few days of my visit that I accidentally discovered Frida Kahlo.
I remember walking into the museum salon where the “Two Fridas” hung. It was love, or more like witchcraft, at first sight. This large, spectacular painting swallowed my visual senses and attention as no work of art would do again until I first saw Velasquez's “Las Meninas” at the Prado in Madrid eight years later.