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9 Fascinating Frida Kahlo Facts That May Surprise You

Overshadowed by her husband Diego Rivera, Kahlo led a too-short life fraught with pain, which she channeled into her powerful paintings.

A portrait of the unusual artist in 1939 by Nickolas Muray

A portrait of the unusual artist in 1939 by Nickolas Muray

It seems every famous artist is eccentric in their own way, and Frida Kahlo was no exception. She didn’t follow the rules, establishing herself as the negation of what a woman was expected to be. Her singular vision continues to inspire and capture the world’s imagination. Kahlo’s recognizable unibrow, boldly colored clothes and tempestuous marriage to muralist Diego Rivera are as central to her fame as her vivid and powerful self-portraits.

During the horrific accident, a shower of gold glitter landed on Frida’s bloody and broken body — making the macabre moment like something out of a magical realism novel.

While writing my post on the Blue House, or La Casa Azul, Kahlo’s former home, I learned more than a few surprising things. Why nine, you might ask? During their lifetimes, Kahlo and Rivera passionately assembled a collection of fantastical papier-mâché alebrijes, and I’d like to imagine hers as a cat with its metaphorical nine lives. So, without further exposition, here are nine interesting facts you might not have known about Frida Kahlo.

Talk about odd couples! Here’s  Wedding Portrait of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera  by Victor Reyes, 1929

Talk about odd couples! Here’s Wedding Portrait of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera by Victor Reyes, 1929

1. She and Diego proved that opposites really do attract.

Kahlo first met Rivera when he was commissioned by the government to paint the mural La Creación at the Bolívar Auditorium of the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria in 1922. Kahlo was one of only 35 females in a student body of 2,000 and belonged to a group of young intellectuals who called themselves Las Cachuchas, named after the peaked cloth caps they wore as a sign of subversion against the rigid dress code of the period. One account claims that she mischievously soaped the stairs leading to the auditorium where Rivera was working, hoping to make him slip and fall.

They met again in 1928 while he was working on a fresco for Mexico City’s Ministry of Education building. With paintings tucked under her arm, she demanded Rivera critique her work, telling him, “I have not come to you looking for compliments. I want the criticism of a serious man. I’m neither an art lover nor an amateur. I’m simply a girl who must work for her living.”

It was a May-December romance, as Rivera was about twice her age (as well as 200 pounds heavier). She was 22, he was 43. He had been married twice before. Kahlo once said, “I suffered two grave accidents in my life: one in which a streetcar knocked me down, and the other was Diego.”  

Frida paints  Portrait of My Father , 1952, in her studio. Photo by Gisèle Freund

Frida paints Portrait of My Father, 1952, in her studio. Photo by Gisèle Freund

2. A horrific — but strangely beautiful — accident changed the course of her life.

In 1925, an 18-year-old Kahlo was riding a bus home from school with her boyfriend Alex Gómez Arias when it collided with an oncoming electric streetcar. A fellow passenger on the bus had been carrying a bag of gold dust, which was released upon impact and tore, a shower of gold glitter landing on the bloody and broken body of Kahlo — making the macabre moment like something out of a magical realism novel.

When onlookers saw her, they cried, “La bailarina, la bailarina!” mistaking her for a dancer.

The bed-ridden Frida Kahlo painting  Portrait of My Family  in 1950. Photo by Juan Guzmán

The bed-ridden Frida Kahlo painting Portrait of My Family in 1950. Photo by Juan Guzmán

The near-fatal accident left Kahlo bedridden for months and enduring lifelong complications that would fuel her intensely personal artwork, turning her deepest feelings and darkest moments into art.

What a deer!  Frida With Granzino ,  Version 2  by Nickolas Muray, 1939

What a deer! Frida With Granzino, Version 2 by Nickolas Muray, 1939

3. Kahlo wasn’t able to have children, so she filled the void with exotic pets.

Kahlo was a great lover of animals and had an exotic menagerie at La Casa Azul. In many of her self-portraits she is accompanied by her favorite animals, including a pair of mischievous spider monkeys named Fulang Chung and Caimito de Guayabal. She also had Bonito, an Amazon parrot, who would perform tricks at the table for rewards of pats of butter, an eagle named Gertrudis Caca Blanca (Gertrude White Shit), hairless Xoloitzcuintli dogs and a fawn called Granzino.

These animals appeared in her work, including Self-Portrait With Monkey and The Wounded Deer, her face placed atop a deer’s body, probably Granzino’s, complete with antlers, running through a forest as nine arrows pierce its body.

Frida’s love of animals is evident in her  Self-Portrait With Small Monkey  from 1945

Frida’s love of animals is evident in her Self-Portrait With Small Monkey from 1945

Despite wanting to have offspring, Kahlo was unable to bear children and suffered miscarriages and medical abortions. Her inability to give birth became a source of trauma, and she said that her pets symbolized the children she never could have.

Many of Frida’s paintings were self-portraits, like  Autorretrato  from 1948

Many of Frida’s paintings were self-portraits, like Autorretrato from 1948

4. She’d most likely beat you in a staring contest.

Kahlo was her own most popular muse. Fifty-five of her 143 paintings are self-portraits, which is perhaps understandable when thinking about how much time she spent on her own while coping with a variety of chronic health issues. Her conjoined brows, plaited hair and watchful eyes fiercely demand that the viewer meet her gaze. And her defiant, upright posture was as much due to the immobilizing plaster corsets she was forced to wear to support her spinal column as it was her confidence.

Kahlo’s use of the intimate self-portrait often reflected her turbulent life and was a visual means to communicate her physical and psychological wounds.

Let’s take some time to reflect upon what an amazing woman Frida Kahlo was. Photo by Lola Álvarez Bravo

Let’s take some time to reflect upon what an amazing woman Frida Kahlo was. Photo by Lola Álvarez Bravo

5. She was her own brand ambassador.

Our sense of self is largely dependent on where we were born, where our family’s from and the people we choose to surround ourselves with. This was especially true for Kahlo with her distinctive sartorial style inspired by the traditional dress of the Tehuana, the independent and proud indigenous matriarchal Zapotec society in the state of Oaxaca. Kahlo’s mother was born in Oaxaca to an indigenous father and a mother of Spanish descent.

Her attire helped her craft an imaginative, colorful identity and typically included flamboyant rings adorning her fingers, a traditional square-cut blouse, the huipil, and a long wrap-around skirt, which allowed her to mask and distract from her physical injuries.

One can only imagine the sensation of Kahlo’s striking and exotic appearance when she arrived in the United States with Rivera. Her rejection of conventional fashion was unlike anything the people of San Francisco, Detroit or New York had ever seen. On a walk in NYC, a flock of children asked Kahlo, “Where’s the circus?” but she simply smiled graciously and continued walking.

The controversial  The Suicide of Dorothy Hale  by Frida Kahlo, 1939

The controversial The Suicide of Dorothy Hale by Frida Kahlo, 1939

6. She pushed boundaries and buttons.

Sometime in 1938, Kahlo was commissioned by Clare Boothe Luce, the writer of the all-female Broadway play The Women and a former managing editor of Vanity Fair magazine, to paint a recuerdo, a remembrance portrait of their mutual New York socialite friend and aspiring actress Dorothy Hale, who had recently taken her own life.

Luce presumed Kahlo would paint a conventional portrait of Hale. However, Kahlo wasn’t a fan of what she considered to be the bourgeois capitalist social scene of New York City and had a more cerebral vision in mind — to create a graphic retablo detailing Hale’s moment of death.

In the center of the painting, the building where Hale lived is depicted with its many small windows rising up behind a layer of feathery clouds. A tiny figure plummets from an upper window. In the middle ground is a larger falling figure, clearly Hale, her arms extended and her skirt billowing around her knees. Resting on the pavement in the foreground is the deceased Hale in the black velvet dress and yellow corsage she wore, her dead eyes frozen open and staring at the viewer. As if that wasn’t enough, the inscription literally bleeds into the bottom of the frame and reads, “In the city of New York on the 21st day of the month of October, 1938, at 6 o’clock in the morning, Mrs. Dorothy Hale committed suicide by throwing herself out of a very high window of the Hampshire House building. In her memory, this portrait was executed by Frida Kahlo.”

When Luce received the painting, she seriously considered destroying it, but was persuaded by friends to desist. The arresting and controversial work remained in storage for decades before being donated “anonymously” to the Phoenix Art Museum in 1960.

7. She arrived at her first solo exhibition in Mexico in an ambulance.

Kahlo’s first major solo exhibition was held at the Julien Levy Gallery in 1938 in New York City, and one year later, her works were part of a collective exhibition entitled Mexique, shown at the Galerie Renou et Colle in Paris. The French surrealist André Breton described her art as “a ribbon around a bomb.”

Due to declining health during her final years, Kahlo rarely ventured outside of the Blue House, and had to use a wheelchair and crutches to get around. In April 1953, her first solo exhibition in Mexico opened at the Galería de Arte Contemporáneo. At the time, Kahlo was on bed rest under doctor’s orders and not expected to attend. However, she made sure to be there, arriving by ambulance to a mystified crowd, ordering that her four-poster bed be moved into the gallery. She was brought in on a stretcher to the bed, where she was able to enjoy the event.

8. She made a most memorable exit from life.

Kahlo was transported to the crematorium at the Panteón Civil de Dolores, and her body was lifted out of the coffin and laid in a cart that would carry her along iron tracks to the cemetery. So desperate were people to have a memento of Kahlo that onlookers pulled at the rings on her fingers even as her body moved toward the crematorium fire. Witnesses who were in the small chamber containing the furnace claimed that a sudden blast of heat from the open incinerator doors caused Kahlo’s corpse to sit bolt upright, and when the flames ignited her hair, forming an aura around her face, her lips appeared to part in a grin just before the doors closed shut.

What the Water Gave Me  by Frida Kahlo, 1938

What the Water Gave Me by Frida Kahlo, 1938

9. She was underappreciated as an artist in her lifetime.

Kahlo’s work was largely overshadowed by that of her husband during her lifetime. This was partly because the complexity of her art was difficult for an international audience to categorize. Kahlo’s most famous works, her autorretratos, or self-portraits, combine elements of realism, surrealism and indigenous Mexican symbolism.

Breton, an original member of the Dada group and the founder of the Surrealist movement in 1924, visited Kahlo in Mexico in 1938 while she was working on Lo Que el Agua Me Dio (What the Water Gave Me). Breton was transfixed by it, calling Kahlo a “natural surrealist.” Kahlo rejected the label and replied, “I never painted dreams. I paint my own reality.”

When Kahlo died at the early age of 47 in 1954, Rivera begged his friend and patroness of the arts, Dolores Olmedo to purchase 25 of Kahlo’s paintings for a mere $1,600. He wanted to make sure that an important part of his wife’s work remained in Mexico. –Duke

A sudden blast of heat from the incinerator caused Frida’s corpse to sit bolt upright. Flames ignited her hair, forming an aura around her face, and her lips parted into a grin just before the doors closed shut.

The Fantastical Woodcut Illustrations of Pau Masiques

A Q&A with the Monterrey, Mexico-based artist, who designs everything from children’s books, comics, posters and chocolate wrappers.

Bubble  by Pau Masiques

Bubble by Pau Masiques

The Ignacia Guest House is filled with wonderful art, objects and books on architecture. After Wally and I were given a tour, I walked up to one of the framed woodcuts with a depiction of the former beloved housekeeper Ignacia, for whom the boutique hotel is named, to jot down the artist’s name, which was signed in graphite in the lower right corner: Pau Masiques.

We loved how he captured the essence of this well-loved woman at two stages of her life. So I decided to reach out to Masiques to learn more about his process and inspirations.

Drawing is like being involved in a great debate in which your work participates in a shared dialogue with that of other creators.
— Pau Masiques
Blindada

Blindada

Masiques combines technology with tradition, transforming woodblocks into mesmerizing artwork. Whether it’s a woman wearing a city as a crown, her head encircled by an endless line of cars emitting fumes, or a squatting Hercules wearing the hide of the Nemean lion, with Medusa and Minotaur perched upon the bent barbell gripped between his teeth, Masiques pulls us into the illustration and the story it tells. His works evoke the warped whimsy of fairy tales and folklore, so of course we were drawn to him. –Duke

Hèrcules

Hèrcules

You created custom artwork for the Ignacia Guest House. Did the owners approach you, and how did you come up with the concept?

I heard about the commission from a friend and found it to be a very appealing proposal.

Recibí el encargo por parte de un amigo, me habló del proyecto y me pareció muy atractiva la propuesta.


When did you realize you were artistically inclined?

I’ve always liked to draw. I don’t remember exactly when this began, but I guess it was when I was very young, like all children — at that age we all have the creative potential to become artists.

Something that’s been with me from an early age is my love of comics. I think that’s what fueled my interest in drawing, in literature and a general curiosity about the world around me.

Siempre me ha gustado dibujar, no recuerdo cuando empecé, supongo que muy temprano como todos los niños, a esa edad todos tenemos un gran potencial como artistas plásticos.

Lo que me ha acompañado siempre, desde muy pequeño, es mi afición a leer cómics y eso creo que fue lo que alimentó mi interés por el dibujo, por la literatura y la curiosidad en general por el mundo que me rodea.

La sel·lecció natural campiona mundial

La sel·lecció natural campiona mundial

How did your career as an illustrator begin?

I took some comic and drawing courses during my childhood and early adolescence, but I wasn’t a very disciplined student at the time. Without putting in effort, your talent doesn't improve.

It wasn’t until later, while pursuing an illustration degree at the Escola Massana in Barcelona that the idea of becoming a professional illustrator occured to me. My connection to my professors, who had rich, creative careers in illustration, excited me and encouraged my dedication to that profession.

En mi niñez y adolescencia tomé algunos cursos de dibujo y cómic pero no era un alumno muy disciplinado en aquel momento, y sin esfuerzo las cosas no salen.

No fue hasta que empecé más tarde en la especialidad de ilustración de la Escola Massana de Barcelona que la idea de dedicarme profesionalmente a la ilustración me pareció posible. El contacto con maestros que tenían una rica vida profesional me animó y estimuló a dedicarme a la ilustración.

Ánimas

Ánimas

Tell us about your process. What materials and tools do you use?

I always carry a couple of notebooks with me. I use them to collect my ideas, whatever they may be: ideas that arise from an ephemeral need of their own or those of a commision. These sketches are the foundation, which I continue to elaborate using digital image processing software. Even when they’re made into a woodcut, the image I’m going to carve into the wood has been refined and retouched using a computer. The end result is closer to what I have on screen. However, there are elements that are impossible to reproduce using this technology that engraving offers. There’s a special vibration in the stroke and line when using a hand tool. Accidents that are the result of chance, which only occur by working directly with the materials, bring much more depth and strength to the end result.

Suelo llevar siempre conmigo un par de cuadernos, los uso para verter ahí mis ideas, sean cuales sean: ideas que surgen a partir de una necesidad expresiva propia o las de un encargo profesional. Esos bocetos son el origen, luego sigo elaborando mucho más el dibujo usando un software de tratamiento de imágenes. Incluso cuando realizo una xilografía, la imagen que voy a tallar en la madera la he revisado y retocado en la computadora, así me aseguro que el resultado final es más próximo al que tengo en pantalla, en el aspecto compositivo sobretodo, sin embargo hay cosas imposibles de reproducir con los medios que ofrece la computadora y que sí ofrece el grabado, hay una especial vibración en el trazo y unos accidentes fruto del azar, que solo trabajando directamente en la materia surgen y que aporta mucha más riqueza y fuerza al resultado final.

Woodcut illustrations influenced by lotería cards

Woodcut illustrations influenced by lotería cards

What are your influences? What inspires you?

The woodcuts of Frans Masereel, the work of José-Guadalupe Posada, Manuel Manilla and engravings in general are my most immediate references. The early works of Joan Miró — the painting The Farm for example — means a lot to me because of its closeness to my life. In that image, he represented a world very familiar to me.

I admire any form of expression, however rough, that seems to have a compelling narrative. I’m interested in so-called outsider art, such as the work of Bill Traylor. Through his ingenuity, he was able to reveal his world to us and describe it with enormous beauty and simplicity.

I’m interested in many artists, but perhaps what inspires me most is simplicity and expression, rather than technical skill. For example, while doing research for a recent project, I discovered the work of Jessie Oonark, a brilliant Inuit artist. At the moment, her work is a source of inspiration for me.

Drawing is like being involved in a great debate in which your work participates in a shared dialogue with that of other creators.

Las xilografías de Frans Masereel, la obra de Posadas, la de Manilla y el grabado popular en general son quizá mis referentes más inmediatos. La primera etapa de la obra de Joan Miró también, la pintura La Masía por ejemplo, me conmueve mucho por su cercanía, por representar y condensar en esa imagen un mundo que me es muy familiar.

Admiro cualquier forma de expresión que por tosca que parezca tenga una especial pulsión narrativa, me interesa mucho también el llamado arte “marginal”, como por ejemplo la obra de Bill Traylor, que con su aparente ingenuidad es capaz de desvelarnos su mundo y describirlo con enorme belleza y sencillez.

Me interesan muchísimos artistas, lo que más me inspira es quizá la simplicidad y la fuerza expresiva, más que un supuesto virtuosismo. Hace poco por ejemplo, descubrí a partir de la búsqueda de documentación para un trabajo, la obra de Jessie Oonark, una genial artista inuit, en estos momentos su trabajo es para mi una fuente de inspiración.

Dibujar es como estar metido en un gran debate, en el que tu trabajo dialoga con el de otros creadores.

A page from a comic about black musicians who have died under mysterious circumstances

A page from a comic about black musicians who have died under mysterious circumstances


Do you listen to music when you work?

I usually combine moments of silence with listening to music or radio programs, depending on the degree of concentration needed at that moment.

Suelo combinar momentos de silencio, con otros de música y de escucha de programas de radio. Depende del grado de concentración que necesite en cada momento.

Masiques’ whimsical work has appeared on a line of chocolate bars

Masiques’ whimsical work has appeared on a line of chocolate bars

Is there a favorite project you’ve worked on?

In general, I’m pretty excited about each commission I receive. I’ve illustrated wrappers for chocolate bars, books, press articles, and posters for concerts and theater workshops. I’ve collaborated in fanzines and I’ve also done solo exhibits of my engravings and sculptures. My favorite thing might be sculpture. It’s something I haven’t done in awhile. I’d say that wood carving and constructing objects are a couple of my favorite practices. I don’t do them as often as I would like — maybe that’s why I choose them as a favorite.

En general suelo ilusionarme con casi todos los encargos que recibo. He ilustrado envolturas para chocolates, libros, artículos de prensa, he realizado posters para conciertos y talleres de teatro, he colaborado en fanzines, también he exhibido mis grabados y esculturas en algunas exposiciones, pero quizá una de mis prácticas favoritas es la de la escultura, y es algo que hace mucho que no hago, podría decir que tallar madera y construir objetos es una de mis prácticas favoritas, y que no realizó tan a menudo como quisiera, quizá por eso la escojo como favorita.

What’s one of your favorite places in Mexico City?

I’ve lived in the north part of the country, in Monterrey, Nuevo León, for about nine years, but I love going to Mexico City, and there are many places that I like. But one place I don’t mind returning to again and again is the National Museum of Anthropology.

Vivo en el norte del país, en Monterrey (Nuevo León) desde hace cerca de nueve años, pero me encanta ir a la Ciudad de México y hay muchos lugares que me gustan, pero un lugar emblemático al que no me importa regresar una y otra vez es el Museo Nacional de Antropología.

The Multi-Layered Genius of Natisa Jones

The utterly delightful and talented Natisa Jones in her studio in Denpasar, Bali

The utterly delightful and talented Natisa Jones in her studio in Denpasar, Bali

A charming Bali painter welcomes us to her Indonesian art studio in Denpasar.

I’ll admit it — I’m a sucker for well-designed things. Maybe it’s my arts background and my ingrained appreciation for aesthetics. But when I found an issue of Design Anthology, a quarterly magazine with thick, matte-finish pages focused on Asia’s architecture and design world, on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, I didn’t hesitate to purchase it.

With a quick search on their website using the keyword “Indonesia,” a Q&A with the artist Natisa Jones appeared. After reading it, I wanted to know more about her work. I found her Instagram account and hit the follow button.

Shortly before our trip to Bali, I sent an inquiry to see if there might be any galleries displaying her work in or near Ubud, where we would be staying.

Natisa replied to my email and invited my husband and I to visit her at her studio. When we met recently, we were running a bit behind our agreed meeting time. I don’t think either Wally or I realized how intense the traffic can be in Bali.

Wally, Natisa and Duke goofing off. Natisa felt like a kindred spirit from the moment we met her

Wally, Natisa and Duke goofing off. Natisa felt like a kindred spirit from the moment we met her

I’ll admit I was a bit nervous to meet her; I felt a bit like a starstruck fanboy. But once she opened the door to her workspace, her expressive eyes and kind demeanor immediately put me at ease. She was wearing a small silver Barong pendant and apologizing for having paint on her hands (she was working on a few pieces for an upcoming show in Jakarta). Her personality was undeniably contagious, and Wally and I were instantly smitten.

“You’re the first people outside of my immediate family to see what I’m working on for my next show,” she told us. We felt honored.

A Field of Roses , 2017

A Field of Roses, 2017

Q&A With Natisa Jones

The Bali-based artist Natisa Jones’ emotive drawings and paintings are a flurry of bold, expressive strokes and an earthy color palette. Evocative in an almost primitive way, her pieces are a peek into her secret world. They often incorporate text and reveal the shadowy side of the human condition.

 

What was it like growing up in Indonesia? How has this influenced your work?

Even though Indonesia always was my base, I did spend my time growing up away from it as well. I spent my high school education in Chiang Mai, Thailand and my tertiary studies in Melbourne, Australia. I returned to Indonesia at 22 to start working in graphic design and illustration.


I like to imagine that your parents caught you drawing on the wall of your bedroom when you were a little girl.

Funnily, my parents didn’t catch me drawing on the wall — they encouraged it. When we were still living in Jakarta, my mom would take me up to the rooftop of our house, where we’d dry our clothes. She’d bring chalk and crayons and draw on the walls up there with me. I have fond memories of spending time doodling with her there.

Then when I was about 7 years old, we moved to Bali. My parents let me draw all over my room as well. It was a good way of making new friends think I was cool — because they would be allowed to draw on the walls, too, when they came over.

Don’t Drop the Soap , 2017

Don’t Drop the Soap, 2017

At what age did you have an interest in art? Do you remember what the subject of your first drawing was?

I picked up the brush and pencil as soon as I was able to. I have pictures of a 2-year-old me painting on the balcony in Jakarta, where my mom had set up an easel.

As soon as I could identify shapes and control lines better, it was more often than not a human figure. Looking back, I realize my drawings were always self-referencing. My mom kept a lot of my drawings from when I was a child up until high school, and I would often draw people I knew, or myself. And if not, it would be a human figure that aimed to express what I felt.

 

You mentioned that you began as a graphic designer. What was your a-ha moment, when you knew you wanted to make the leap to multidisciplinary artist?

I was making illustrations for fashion magazines, and it was easy. People were satisfied with what I would give, and it didn’t challenge me creatively. I also began to realize that my sense of idealism is stronger than I assumed. I really thought that after art school, the “pure art life” wasn’t for me. I liked the idea of having a desk job and a community to come to, where I get to draw all day and go home, and be done. But I started to feel unsatisfied very quickly with what I was doing. I felt wrong using my skills to push these limiting beauty agendas and shallow trends to 14-year-old kids. So I decided that the best way I can contribute to society in a positive way was to utilize my talent the best way I can. And that was that. I was much happier.

 

How do the cities you travel to influence your work?

I am very responsive to my environment, so wherever I am and what I go through always makes its way into my work, whether it be directly or indirectly. It can come in color, mood, phrases I hear, events that occur. Absolutely anything.

Fudge You , 2017

Fudge You, 2017

During our conversation at your studio, you mentioned how you were working on several pieces simultaneously. What does a typical day in the studio look like?

I usually start with going into the studio, reading, writing or sketching for 45 minutes to an hour. And then I will go at it, onto works I have been working on or start a fresh sheet of canvas. Some days I will go into the studio and nothing happens but one stroke on a painting I have been stuck at. Those days I would just read or watch documentaries and stare at all the pieces around me, having conversations with them in my head. But those days are work, too. They are just as important.

 

I love the layers and colors of your pieces. Are there particular colors you are drawn to, and do they have a symbolic meaning for you?

I think over the years I have subconsciously established my own language with color. I seem to reserve certain colors to denote certain emotions or expressions — but this also depends on the gestural strokes they are accompanied by. But these representations are often layered and never one-dimensional. So the color + stroke + imagery creates a dialogue between each other, and depending on that dialogue, each element exists to serve one another.

Within the process of creating, I am not always conscious of why my colors appear the way they do. I mix and match my colors as I go, and it really relies on my mood that day or moment and what emotions I was trying to express. It's not unlike the feeling of when you wake up and you just know that today you want to wear that green sweater. It’s an impulsive gut feeling.

Sometimes though, I have to admit — it is the art student and graphic designer in me that refers back to the color wheel to see what colors will best solve a creative problem.

May It Bloom , 2017

May It Bloom, 2017

One of the canvases we saw in your studio has a large figure with a haunting gaze that reminded me of Michelangelo’s Delphic Sibyl. What artists are you inspired by, and do you find that they shape your personal style?

As a former art student, I am aware and do refer back to art history and at times do engage with it within my work. But often it is not fully my purpose. I think studying them, there are gestures in poses and also influence in color that are imprinted in my mind from many different art movements that indirectly end up on my canvas.

In terms of personal style, I think the most influential movement in the context or art and art history lands more to abstract expressionism and the New York school era. As I get older though, I am starting to go back further and further in time, back to modernism and then even further to the Renaissance. But I think as an artist, that’s your job. To explore all the artists and context of art before you, and move back and forth in time to better understand your own.

“Art goes into the future, while the art lover goes into the past; they meet in the present.” as J.L. Siesling writes in Art Is More.

A work in progress in Natisa’s studio, with some good advice she’s written on the wall

A work in progress in Natisa’s studio, with some good advice she’s written on the wall

How do you start a painting?

I kind of go without a plan, and it shapes itself as I go along. It reveals itself to me slowly. Some days I will have an idea and start with that — most likely ending up nowhere near the initial idea! Some days, when the last thing you want to do is be confronted by a massive canvas and talk about feelings, it becomes very technical, and I force myself to start with a stroke, and then I keep responding from stroke to stroke, shape to shape, color to color. And voilà! Might not be genius, but it’s a start.

 

Do you listen to music while you work?

Yes, music is very important — it helps me channel my creative flow, as it does for many artists, I’m sure. Silence is also good sometimes. It depends on how you woke up that day!

 

How do you know when a piece is complete?

The age-old question of “when do you know a piece is complete” is a really difficult thing to explain. There is definitely some sort of learning process of letting go. For me, since I’ve done this most of my life, it’s roughly a feeling of satisfaction or exhaustion. Either I’ve exhausted that expression and I don’t need to work on that feeling within myself anymore, and am done; or I have an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction with a piece and I have to pull myself back from fixing things that don’t actually need fixing.

It is difficult to know when it’s done, but I think the difference is: If it feels like it is complete, then it probably is. But when it is not complete, it usually is very obvious only to me and I would not be able to send it out into the world like that.

Sitting at Home , 2016

Sitting at Home, 2016

Have you ever put a piece aside or completely reworked it?

Almost all the time and every piece. Working on multiple pieces all at once allows me the space to bounce from one expression to another. It creates less pressure for me. But eight out of 10 pieces go through 100 stages and images before they reach their conclusion. I have maybe five pieces in my entire life of canvas works that have been completed in under 24 hours and stuck to their initial forms.

 

Have you ever regretted selling a piece?

When I first started selling work, I have to admit it was difficult to let go, because it was a concept that was so foreign to me. When I was working in graphic design, I understood the dynamics very clearly. I was good at something, and they needed that skill, and I was there to serve their vision first and not mine. Or at least that’s how it was for me at the time. I was thick-skinned with rejection when it came to commercial work and felt I was always good at reading what people wanted from my work.

But painting was different. It was a concept that I had to get my head around as I went along. My painting was my therapy and served me and only me growing up. To come into a profession where your feelings and psychological states were up for sale and judgement was definitely a big pill to swallow. It was quite literally the idea of someone buying what I felt on a Tuesday. So at the beginning this was hard.

 

Okay, here are a couple of silly questions. Durian: love it or loathe it?

The smell, the texture, the shape — what’s not to love?

 

Kopi luwak (a coffee made from beans that have been pooped out of the lusaka, or civet cat)?

Like it, but also not, for the way it is made. Not the poop part, but how some of these farms provide horrible living conditions for the lusaka and definitely aren’t animal-friendly.


What are you working on currently?

I am currently working on four shows and one big solo show in Jakarta.

Moon , 2014

Moon, 2014

Follow Natisa on Instagram!  –Duke

Top Instagram Travel Photography of 2017

Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand: The delights of Southeast Asia have captured your hearts — and your eyes as well.

Don’t get us wrong. Europe is filled with architectural marvels and rich history. We’re totally smitten with the winding labyrinths of Moroccan medinas. And India is a thrilling and sometimes intense travel experience like no other.

But nothing makes our hearts pitter-patter like Southeast Asia, with its delicious food, Buddhist temples, ancient ruins, lush scenery and kind locals.

As we looked back at last year’s top posts on Instagram, we detected a theme: It seems we’re not the only ones in love with Southeast Asia. All but two of our most-favorited photos are of Cambodia, Thailand or Vietnam.

Enjoy! –Wally

The Most Incredible 360 Panorama Virtual Reality Pics Ever

AirPano’s aerial photography and VR videos of the world’s most famous landmarks reveal sights you'd never see otherwise.


Courtesy of www.AirPano.com

Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, are the largest waterfalls in the world. The AirPano photographers said that filming them has been one of the highlights of the project.

The photos are immersive. They engulf you. You almost feel as if you’re there. You can swoop around a famous site you’ve always wanted to see — only now it’s as if you’ve developed the ability to fly as well as teleport.

These 360-degree aerial panoramas are thanks to AirPano, a Russian not-for-profit that features 3,000 of these impressive images.

Two of AirPano’s photographers, Sergey Semenov and Sergey Rumyantsev, answered some questions about this ambitious, one-of-a-kind project. –Wally


How did the AirPano project get started?

In 2006, we learned how to take spherical panorama shots on land. In those years, this was not an easy task: It required a special panoramic tripod head, a sufficiently deep knowledge of shooting panoramas, and it demanded a lot of manual work.

At that time, we also had a lot of experience in photography from helicopters and airplanes, and suddenly Oleg Gaponyuk, the founder of the AirPano project, got an idea: Why not break all of the existing laws of taking panorama shots on land, and try to do it in the air?

We figured out how to take a spherical shot in the sky, where it is impossible to use a high-precision panorama head, because the helicopter can shift by many meters while shooting, due to the blowing of the wind.

After several unsuccessful attempts, we finally figured it out, and the result exceeded all of our expectations. The effect was stunning, and the viewer felt like they were sitting in the helicopter and seeing the surrounding landscape with their own eyes.

The AirPano team


What's AirPano’s mission?

When we realized what a stunning impression aerial panoramas produce, we decided to do a project called “100 Places on the Planet Which You Should See From a Bird’s-Eye View.”

We wanted to share with the audience fantastic, awesome, incredible impressions, inaccessible to most people.

After shooting the first 100 places, we didn’t stop there, and now on our website you can find panoramas of more than 300 places of our planet — from the North Pole to Antarctica.
 

Why is this project so passionate for you?

Few people have the opportunity to see the most interesting places on our planet from a bird’s-eye view.

First of all, it would require a significant amount of time spent traveling. Secondly, the best spots are far from civilization, in places with no airplanes or helicopters nearby. Thirdly, the most popular places have restrictions on flying, and lastly, it’s too expensive. Our project gives this opportunity to everyone, regardless of their location or wealth.

As photographers, we have visited over 100 countries around the world, and we have seen unbelievable scenery with our very own eyes. When it became clear that everything can be shown to people in a new way, we decided that we should do it. But back in 2006, Andrei Zubetz and Gaponyuk, the founders of AirPano, had no idea that the project would be so successful.

 

How has the project grown?

In the beginning we had a goal to capture the most 100 beautiful places of the world from above. We have captured all of them and we couldn’t stop. So our current goal is to keep shooting.

Technology evolves, so we come back to places where we’ve already been, but capture them in new format with high resolution. For example, we have now created 360-degree videos of some of our favorite waterfalls.

Victoria Falls, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe


How do you get those amazing panoramic photos and videos?

We shoot our air panoramas in a variety of ways: large helicopters and a radio-controlled “flying” camera. We use a typical SLR camera with a wide-angle lens. The process is not very long and it takes 30 seconds to shoot a single sphere.


Courtesy of www.AirPano.com

Antarctica


What’s the most interesting thing that has happened on your travels?

We’ve been in 300 places around the world, so it’s difficult to choose the most interesting thing in all these journeys. We’ve been on the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica, on South and North Pole. We’ve seen a volcano eruption. And we’ve also created aerial panoramas from the stratosphere.


Were you ever in any danger?

Yes. We’ve walked by lava pipes. We’ve captured footage of wild animals on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia and in Africa. We’ve met angry elephant in the savanna, who were following our car. When we were capturing rafting on the Zambezi River, one of our operators fell from the boat.


Courtesy of www.AirPano.com

The Raja Ampat archipelago in Indonesia



We’ve embedded footage of your favorite spots. What did you like best about them?

We are landscape photographers; we love beautiful views. There are the most spectacular views from above and from the ground of these places. There is a powerful energy and untouched nature.


Where would you love to go that you haven't yet?

The main places where we’d like to go are the United Kingdom and Japan. We have tried a lot to get there, but we have problems with getting permissions for aerial shooting. Also we love volcanoes, waterfalls and tropical beaches, so all these directions interest us.



20 Best Instagram Photos of 2016

You saw, you liked. Here are our best-rated travel photos on Instagram of last year.

 

Looking back, 2016 taught me the importance of staying connected to friends near and far. Seeking new perspectives to overcome hurdles and nurturing the labor of love Wally and I call the Not So Innocents Abroad.

Our hope is to share our experiences of other cities and other cultures. Whether exploring the unusual 161-year-old Dhundiraj Ganpati Mandir wooden Hindu temple in Baroda, India or asking our friends abroad to vocalize how they felt about the polarizing effects of the American election, we’re grateful for the role you’ve played and look forward to welcoming a year filled with optimism and new adventures.

 

Choose Your Own Adventure

As the old adage goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Predicting what makes one image more engaging than another can be difficult to determine and often, like art, is simply subjective.

From amazing destinations that include Cambodia, France, India and Morocco, here’s a look back at our most popular Instagrams of last year.

Follow us on Instagram — and be a part of the action! –Duke

1. If Aix-en-Provence, France doesn’t charm you with its markets, food and architecture, there is no shortage of magnificent elaborately hand-carved entry doors to look at.

2. The beautiful Italianate courtyard outside the Darbar Hall at Laxmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara, India.

3. Deco Darling. Tucked away in the Fès Medina, Morocco, is the beautiful Palais Amani. Originally owned by a prominent Fassi family of merchants, the majority of the residence was rebuilt in the Art Deco style after a landslide badly damaged the 17th century property.

4. The Café St. Regis was one of our favorite spots to enjoy breakfast when we visited Paris, France.

5. The façade of Notre Dame in Paris has many interesting details, but perhaps none as unique as the sculpture in the left portal holding his head. The statue is of St. Denis, said to have picked his head up after being decapitated and walked six miles, while preaching a sermon of repentance the entire way. If it takes me 45 minutes on the treadmill at 6 miles per hour, he would have walked an hour plus!

6. Both covered and open-air, the green metal pavilions from the 1900s form the charming flower market located on Place Louis Lépine in Paris, between the Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte Chapelle chapel.

7. A view of the magnificent Rajon Ki Baoli stepwell in Delhi, India, built by Daulat Khan during the reign of Sikandar Lodi in 1516. Chambers located behind the arch-shaped niches once provided respite from the heat and a place for patrons to socialize.

8. One of the splendid staircases with its elegant wrought-iron railing inside the 18th century Hotel d’Albertas mansion in Aix-en-Provence, France. Embellishments such as these were a sign of family wealth intended to call out the social status of the owner.

9. Neptune wielding a trident riding on a fish by sculptor André Massoule on the Beaux-Arts Pont Alexandre III in Paris. A marvel of 19th century engineering, this bridge consists of a 20-foot-high single-span steel arch.

10. Musical Chairs. I was awestruck by the hypnotic symmetry of the rows of empty ladder-back chairs awaiting the devout at Saint Suplice in Paris. The ethereal Catholic church, located in the 6th arrondissement, is the second largest in Paris and it was in some movie called The Da Vinci Code. 😜

11. The enormous grooved stump of lime mortar and rubble masonry are all that remains of the unfinished Alai Minar in Delhi. The minaret was intended to rival the Qutb Minar in both size and scale, but was never completed.

12. Part of the Right Bank, this busy square located in Montmartre, Paris is known for its portrait artists and painters. During the Belle Époque, at the beginning of the 20th century, many artists, including Pablo Picasso, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent van Gogh resided and worked here.

13. Fez was founded in 859 CE. The origin of the name is unknown. Some scholars believe it comes from the old Berber name of the Middle Atlas Mountains, Fazaz. Other stories trace the name back to a tale of a golden axe that divided the river of Fez into two halves. In Arabic, a fez is an axe.

14. Built by sculptor Jean-Claude Rambot and situated in the heart of the Mazarin district, the Fountain of the Four Dolphins in Aix supports an obelisk topped with a pineapple. We spent an afternoon here with our sketchbooks pretending we were bohemian artistes.

15. The stunning Angkor Wat temple, the largest religious monument in the world, was built by Khmer king Suryavarman II in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s a symbolic representation of Mount Meru, the Mount Olympus of the Hindu faith and the abode of ancient gods. The complex has been in continuous use since it was built.

16. Benched. There is something beautiful in the patina of these benches in Aix Cathedral combined with the well-worn brick floor that has stood the test of time.

17. A Room With a View. Our grand suite at the Udai Bilas Palace in Dungarpur, India looked out onto the tranquil waters of Gaibsagar Lake, where the royal family’s private island temple dedicated to the Lord Shiva floats serenely.

18. Set in Stone. A white marble cenotaph lies at the center of Safdarjung’s tomb in Delhi.

19. Kittens and cats are a common sight among the streets of the Marrakech Medina in Morocco, indifferent to the activity around them. This little guy came to visit while we were sitting having coffee.

20. Louvre is in the air at Paris’ famous museum.

Where to See DFace, Obey (aka Shepard Fairey), Boa Mistura and Other Street Art in Málaga

Soho Malaga has become a mural and graffiti hotspot.

One of the many colorful murals you’ll find roaming around Soho, as part of the MAUS initiative

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the storied Heredia District, Málaga’s former 19th century bourgeois enclave, has emerged reborn.

It’s no secret that Wally and I both love graffiti and murals, so when our friends Jo and José proposed a visit to the Barrio de las Artes, the epicenter of Málaga’s street art scene, we both said yes.

Street artists from around the world have been invited to contribute and transform the district into an open-air gallery.

Wally and Jo pose in front of street art

Duke takes his turn as well. Photo ops galore in Soho

Mighty MAUS

Located south of the main Alameda thoroughfare, the triangular-shaped quarter has rebranded itself as the Soho district. This was made possible through a public arts initiative that goes by the acronym MAUS (Málaga Arte Urbano Soho), turning the surrounding streets and buildings into canvases.

If you see vermin tumbling from the sky, you’re in the right place. It’s a street mural by Roa, who paints animals native to the local environment — like, um, rats

The first large-scale work we encountered was an expressive black and white mural created by Belgian street artist Roa depicting wiry haired rats tumbling down the curving façade of a multistory building at the eastern end of Calle Casa de Campo.

Devote an hour or so to explore (and photograph) the street art scene in Málaga

Since we had recently indulged in a big lunch, José proposed that the four of us check out the rooftop terrace bar of the Hotel Soho Bahía. When we arrived, we found that it was closed. Perhaps an extension of the previous Labor Day holiday, perhaps not — who can say, as businesses seem to run on a different timetable in Spain.

The bold multistory mural on the exterior of the Hotel Soho Bahía, La Danse de Venus et du Marin by Remed and Okuda, is a combination of vibrant colors and shapes

Street artists from around the world have been invited by Fernando Francés, the director of the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo (CAC) to contribute and transform the district into an open-air gallery. Admission to the museum is free, and it’s located next to the Guadalmedina River near the city center in a building that was previously a warehouse used for Málaga’s wholesale markets.

El poder de la imaginacton: The Soho district shows the power of the imagination in action

We didn’t have time to stop inside but had fun posing with the letters (choose one that corresponds to your initials) by a mural by Boa Mistura that reads, “El poder de la imaginacion nos hace infinitos” (The power of the imagination makes us infinite).

D is for Duke

O boy, it’s Wally!

Two of the most high-profile works loom larger than life on the façade of the Colegio García Lorca directly behind the museum — seven stories high to be exact.

Vibrant murals by D*Face and Obey loom above the art museum

To the right is Paz y Libertad (Peace and Liberty) by Shepard Fairey aka Obey. For those of you who may not be familiar with Fairey, he’s the artist responsible for creating the iconic “Hope” image depicting then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Opposite Fairey’s piece is a mural by Dean Stockton aka D*Face: a tongue-in-cheek pop art-inspired piece that declares, “I’ll put an end to those flying D*Dogs if it’s the last thing I ever do!!!” I love that the fighter pilot has one red eye and one blue.

The art-focused transformation of Málaga’s Soho district elevates the medium and was a highlight of our visit. The key is to remember to look up. –Duke

And if your street art hunt gets to be too much, just take a nap along the Guadalmedina River like Jo

6 Fun Facts About Pablo Picasso

The Cubism pioneer, born in a building off the Plaza de la Merced, didn’t stay long in Malaga, Spain. But that doesn’t stop the city from proudly claiming him as its own.

The Plaza de la Merced in Málaga, Spain, where Picasso was born. This shot was taken from atop the Gibralfaro fortress

Despite the fact that Picasso left Málaga when he was still a boy, his legacy continues to be deeply rooted to the city he was born in. Heck, the rented floor of a building off the Plaza de la Merced where Picasso was born has been designated a heritage site since the early ’80s.

RELATED: A Brief History of Málaga, Spain

Picasso’s fascination with pigeons came from his father, who bred them (A Child With Pigeons, Picasso, 1943)

1. Picasso’s father, José Ruiz Blasco, was an artist in his own right. He bred pigeons, which became one of Picasso’s favorite subjects to paint — and they still rule the plaza square.

Picasso’s relationship with his muse began when she was only 17 years old and he was 45 and living with his wife.

Picasso took his surname from his mother — the tail end of his 23-word name (Mother and Child, 1902)

2. His complete name was a series of the names of saints and relatives and had a whopping 23 words: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso. Spanish tradition has children take maternal surnames as well, and Picasso adopted his mother’s, as he felt it better suited him.

Picasso’s iconic Breton stripe shirt was worn by members of the French Navy

3. The iconic Breton stripe shirt he often wore humbly began as the uniform of the French Navy. According to lore from Brittany, the shirt originally included 21 horizontal stripes, one for each of Napoleon’s military victories against the British, a heritage tied to France’s Normandy coast.

The subject of this and many other paintings was Picasso’s number-one muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter (Reclining Woman Reading, 1960)

4. During the course of his career, Picasso changed companions as often as he changed focus and painting styles. He never did marry his greatest model and muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Their relationship began when she was only 17 years old and he was 45 and living with his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, a former Russian ballerina, with whom he had a 5-year-old son, Paulo.

The Dream, 1932

Some of his most acclaimed works, including The Dream, were inspired by her.

They had a daughter together who was named Maria de la Concepción after his dead sister, Conchita.

Four years after Picasso’s death, Marie-Thérèse was unable to go on living and hanged herself.

Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso are credited with creating Cubism

5. Picasso and Georges Braque co-founded the revolutionary art movement of Cubism. The pair were influenced by such things as ancient Iberian sculpture and African masks. Their working relationship lasted until 1914, when Braque enlisted in the French Army at the beginning of World War I.

 

Chicagoans have grown quite fond of The Picasso — even though it looks like a giant baboon head

6. In 1963, Picasso was commissioned by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill to create a unique monumental public sculpture for the Chicago Civic Center (now called Daley Plaza). Refusing payment, he created a maquette (smaller-sized model) for the monument and gifted the full-scale reproduction to the city.

Perhaps because Picasso had not titled the piece, it was left open to ambiguous interpretation. At its unveiling, in the summer of 1967, the 50-foot work was widely criticized and universally disliked. Some critics likened it to the head of a baboon or perhaps the artist’s Afghan dog.

Now known simply as The Picasso, opinions have softened and it has since become an iconic symbol of Chicago. You can now watch kids skateboard and slide up and down the metal base. –Duke


RELATED: El Pimpi: A Famous Málaga Restaurant in the Courtyard of Antonio Banderas’ Building

The Whimsical, Feminist Street Art of Sara Fratini

Under the adorable mural by Sara Fratini, Duke and Wally enjoy coffee in the courtyard café of La Casa Invisible in Málaga, Spain

A Q&A with the artist who created the mural at La Casa Invisible in Málaga that kept making us smile.

 

When our friend Jo took Wally and I to the courtyard café of the La Casa Invisible cultural center, we knew it was a magical place from the moment our eyes fell upon the whimsical mural by the Venezuelan artist Sara Fratini.

Sara was invited to create the mural thanks to a project organized by La Guarimba International Film Festival in collaboration with Amnesty International and the University of Málaga.

I started drawing the curvy, rosy-cheeked girl when I realized that I wasn’t happy with the way society treated women. She is radiant, happy and doesn’t care about what society expects from her.
— Sara Fratini

I was so taken with Sara’s playful style, I decided to look her up online and email her some questions. Here are her responses. –Duke

 

What’s your connection to Madrid?

I lived in Madrid for six years and studied fine arts there. Currently, I live in the town of Amantea located in the Calabria region of southern Italy, where I’m one of the organizers of La Garimba International Film Festival, but Madrid will always be in my heart.

 

In what other cities have you done murals?

I have done murals in Madrid, Málaga, Amantea and San Vito dei Normanni, Italy.

 

Who are your favorite artists?

I like a lot of different artists. At the moment. I’m obsessed with Rubens. And after seeing the exhibition of Bosch at the Prado Museum, I’m equally obsessed with him. I already admired his work, but after seeing his paintings, I feel that I could spend hours looking and discovering new characters and demons.

I also love Ludwig Kirchner and a lot of German expressionists.

 

Many of your pieces feature a rosy-cheeked girl. Is she modeled after anyone?

No. I started drawing the curvy, rosy-cheeked girl when I realized that I wasn’t happy with the way society treated women. So she is my response to societal pressures. She is radiant, happy and doesn’t care about what society expects from her.

 

What’s the most interesting story you’ve had creating a mural?

I recently created a mural in the Asylum Seeker Center in the town where I live. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. I drew on two big walls, and some of the refugees helped me. The mural was part of a project organized by La Guarimba called Cinema Ambulante.

We currently have more than 80 refugees living in a camp, and our goal is to help them integrate into the local community.

 

What’s your creation process?

I usually wake up in the morning, have a cup of coffee and put myself to work. I take a look at my notebook and begin working on a specific idea.

 

What inspires you?

Everything. What happens to me during the day, what I think or feel and, of course, music.