"Alas pa' volar" is a series of mixed media drawings inspired by an entry Frida Kahlo wrote in her diary in 1953: “Pies para qué los quiero si tengo alas pa’ volar” , which means: Feet, why do I want them, if I have wings to fly? Frida wrote this after her right leg had been amputated as a result of gangrene. I interpret her entry to mean that if you give wings to your imagination, you are not bound by earthly constraints such as a broken body, a severed relationship, self-imposed limitations, or man-made borders.
In this series, I illustrate what I believe to be Frida's sentiment. In each drawing, a central figure is accompanied by a winged creature—birds, butterflies, and dragonflies.
The first piece that I completed began as a drawing of Frida as she looked in a photograph taken on July 2, 1954, when she took part in a demonstration against North-American intervention in Guatemala. Frida died shortly afterwards on July 13, 1954. In that photograph, she was wearing a scarf on her head and as I analyzed her face and her expression, it was apparent to me that she was close to death. It was at this point that I abandoned capturing an accurate portrayal of Frida, and decided to depict her as a "calavera" (skull). As I began drawing this piece, I was reminded of McCartney's lyrics: “Blackbird singing in the dead of night/take these broken wings and learn to fly/All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise”. And so, the background unfolded—I added a blackbird in flight and used a saffron-colored sky to represent the color of "cempasuchil" (marigold flowers) used during the Day of the Dead to guide the spirits of the dead back to their earthly homes.
The second piece is about my family's journey from Mexico City to Illinois. The image was inspired by a small collage I created using images from our family passport—a photo of myself and the Mexican seal. I chose monarch butterflies because we immigrated to the U.S. in March, when they begin their migration north. At the time of our departure from Mexico City, on March 13, 1959, we were five. The four butterflies represent my father, mother, and two brothers. My countenance is one of detachment as I did not comprehend what the journey meant, therefore did not know what to feel.
The third drawing was inspired by a photograph of Frida Kahlo and her monkey, perhaps Fulang Chang. My first impression of the photograph was that it was whimsical because of the monkey and its upward gaze. Then I noticed that the monkey appeared to be looking quite attentively at nothing. To accentuate the lightheartedness, I incorporated dragonflies and a yellow background.
One of Frida's drawings from her diary influenced the creation of the fourth piece. In fact, it was the same drawing under which she wrote, “Pies para qué los quiero si tengo alas pa’ volar.” In this drawing, a crane and female legs and feet are metamorphosed into one, and the creature prepares to take flight.
These mixed media drawings will be at Swanson Contemporary from November 21, 2014 to January 3, 2015. The gallery is owned by Chuck Swanson and is located at 638 Market in Louisville, Kentucky. We hope that you will join us for this wonderful exhibit. The opening reception is on November 21 from 6PM to 8PM.
En el espíritu de Frida opening night reception at Swanson Contemporary on November 21, 2014.