Thousands of people gathered at a Barrio Logan gallery Saturday to celebrate what would have been the 112th birthday of artist Frida Kahlo.
Almost 65 years after her early death, the Mexican-born surrealist has a growing following of fans who admire her grit, determination and creativity in the face of lifelong physical and emotional pain.
“We love Frida Kahlo, not only for what she did, but for her message,” said Soni Lopez-Chavez, who runs La Bodega gallery with her husband, Chris Zertuche.
“She would express herself in her colorful clothing, and she didn’t care what anybody else had to say about it,” she said. “People are still able to connect with her in a lot of ways. She was cheated on, and a lot of women can relate to that, as well.”
La Bodega blocked off a side street outside its entrance for its fifth annual “Friducha,” which was a nickname given to Kahlo by her artist husband Diego Rivera. More than a dozen vendors sold arts, crafts and clothing outside on the street, and inside the Kahlo-inspired work of 52 artists from across the United States and as far as Russia, Egypt and Italy was on display.
The event has grown steadily since it began, Lopez-Chavez said. Three years ago they began closing the street, and last year 5,000 people attended.
Saturday many of the women wore the colorful Mexican outfits the artist was known for.
“It’s just an honor to me to resemble Frida just a little bit,” said Silvia Robledo, a two-time winner of the event’s look-alike contest. “I look forward to this every year.”
She had heavy dark eyebrows and wore pink silk roses in her done-up hair, a gold blouse topped with a black shawl, a gold medallion on a chain around her neck, a long colorful skirt and custom-made red embroidered shoes.
Kahlo used colorful clothes and art to overcome many difficulties.
She had polio as a child, grew up in an unhappy home and was in a terrible car accident at age 18 that left her with lifelong disabilities. She married Rivera when she was 21, but their union was often troubled.
Veronica Rivera, working in her sister’s vending booth Treasures from the South, said she admired how Kahlo unapologetically broke gender barriers at the time: she openly drank in bars, smoked in public and had a same-sex affair.
“Her husband cheated on her, so she went out and had an affair with the same woman,” Rivera said. “I don’t think she was a lesbian. She was just trying to prove a point.”
Many of the things Kahlo did were scandalous at the time, and only now have become acceptable.
“Our society has changed,” said Terri Woodward, an artist from Corona with a piece in the show. “Her work touches a lot of people.”