Sunday, November 25, 2012

Monobrows & Moustaches - A Facial Hair Focussed Weekend

 Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in the studio of sculptor Ralph Stackpole, San Francisco, 1931. Photograph by Peter A. Juley & Son.

This is the life-sized photograph of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera that greets visitors to the exhibit, Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting, currently on  display at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.  It was my birthday this weekend and my gift to myself was the trip to see the exhibit, which features 80 works on paper and paintings by Mexico's most famous artist couple.

A controversy erupted in the media over a three-day marketing promotion that offered visitors to the gallery a discounted ticket price if they allowed themselves to be photographed wearing a Kahlo-inspired stick-on unibrow.   Initially, this had all the makings of a sexist marketing gimmick that reduces a talented artist and fiercely intelligent woman to the sum of her eyebrow(s), but when taken into context that Kahlo herself was very proud of her gender-ambiguous image, including her heavy brows, her "moustache",  and occasional dressing in men's clothing, the tempest loses some of its force.  I was honestly surprised that it warranted a debate on CBC Radio.  If it got a few more people in to see the show, all the better.  I'm sure the promotion would have been less politically charged if  visitors had been given the option of dressing in a Diego Rivera fat suit.

"The Broken Column" by Frida Kahlo, 1944

I was familiar with much of Kahlo's work and her story prior to seeing the exhibit, but not Rivera's work outside of his large murals.  I was surprised to see what a talented portrait painter he was, and that he had worked in several painting styles including cubism and impressionism.  It is a wonderful show, consisting of works from three Mexican private collections, and I was particularly happy to see two of my favourite Kahlo paintings, "The Broken Column" (above), and"Self-Portrait With Cropped Hair" were included. 

Frida with Idol, photograph by Nikolas Muray c.1940

The exhibit included some stunning colour photographs of Kahlo by Nikolas Muray, with whom she had an on-and-off ten year relationship, that showed just what an incredibly striking woman she was.  I think she was gorgeous, with her dark hair and brows, and the indigenous Mexican clothing, jewellery, and hair adornments she favored,  I know many of my fellow bloggers are also quite taken with her art, and inspired by her style.  I had done a Frida-inspired outfit post back in the summer.

I was able to take a photograph of this ofrenda, or altar, that was commissioned by the gallery from Mexican artist Carlomagno Pedro Martinez.  Altars like this one are traditionally constructed in Mexico to honour the dearly departed and to provide a place for people to leave personal offerings to the dead.  Visitors to the Kahlo/Rivera exhibit were encouraged to write messages on paper flowers that they could then leave on the altar.  I had a small figure of the Virgin of Guadalupe that I brought with me to add to the offerings.

There were also some large paper-mache figures on display near the altar that included three very large "Judas" figures, and these Frida and Diego catrinas (well-dressed skeletons).  The figures were created by a Toronto-based theatre company, Shadowlands, that incorporates masks, puppets and live music into their productions.  As a fan of the costumed skeletons that are part of the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations,  I had to get a photo with them. I was wishing I had worn some bright colours instead of black and grey.
The exhibit continues at the Art Gallery of Ontario until January 20th, 2013.  A personal side note - the gift shop connected to this exhibit is one of the best ones I've ever seen.  They have everything a Frida Kahlo fan could ever want, including a magnetic Frida dress-up doll that has taken over the door of my fridge.

on to the Moustaches....

Saturday night, I went to the Roller Derby game at the Western Fair Agriplex.  The theme of this particular bout was "Movember Pain", in tribute to the month where men grow moustaches to raise funds and awareness for men's health, including early detection and treatment of prostate cancer.
 There were many moustaches present, on men and woman (the stick-on kind) and there were prizes given for the best "stache".  The guy in the photo above won the prize for the men, and rightly so.

Some of the women had found rather creative ways to show their support for "Movember", including this one who had her hair stylist shave a "moustache" into the back of her hair.

One of the game's officials, in her "Sad Panda with moustache" makeup

I started out the evening with a moustache (it was the "Toulouse Letrec" model, according to the package) but everytime I spoke, it came unstuck, so it ended up on my forehead, after which I was told I looked very "Vulcan".   Live long and prosper, my friends.

faux fur vest - The Sentimentalist
leather and fabric leggings - Danier Leather
Swear brand platform boots - From Mars in the 1990's


  1. What a great birthday treat! Looks like a fabulous exhibit. No unibrow for me, ha!
    Love your skirt.

  2. Bahahaha, live long and prosper indeed! Wild boots your wearing, love 'em!
    I'm rather obsessed by Frida, going to her house in Mexico City was a long held dream fulfilled a few years back.Diego's talent is often overlooked, but he was incredibly gifted!I love both their work, and am fascinated by their life together.I really love Frida's frock in that first photo.I would have bought half the gift shop out!!

  3. The exhibition sounds wonderful. Frida looks so small in that first pic, and so stunning in the colour photo, and her art is always striking and powerfully beautiful. I am less familiar with Rivera's work. Have you read The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver, which features the couple?
    You are rocking the leather trousers at the Roller Derby (and the moustache!) and is the skirt you wore to the exhibition leather (or faking it) too? Mmm, it's shiny! I love the photo of you with the skeletons.
    A busy weekend but a good one! xxxx

  4. Happy Birthday to you!!! What a fabulous treat. Frida was both supremely talented and beautiful. Rivera was the most famous originally, strange how he's almost dropped off the radar now.
    You look killer in those ma-hoosive boots and leather pants! xxx

  5. A very Happy Birthday to you dear Shelley. Great post in celebration of Freida and Deigo and a tribute to you, of course. Loving your roller derby outfit; the faux fur vest accessorized by moustache made my morning.

  6. I would have worn my Frida costume if I could have gone to that! Lucky you! What was the big deal about the uni-brow? For Halloween, I drew my on with eyebrow pencil.

  7. Frida and Diego would have been so proud of you.
    Thank you for sharing these pic wiht us.

  8. Hey, I think those are the same striped tights that I have. In burgundy and another pair in browns. We have the same taste in several things I think. I loved the arm warmers in the post below too. I've made cuffs for the top of my boots with cut off socks too. It's surprising when they don't unravel. If you ever buy knee hi socks that shrink or they fall down and bug you, arm warmers or boot cuffs are the best thing to make.

    How is it your life always looks like so much fun!

  9. Hey, girlfriend! We share the same birthday and I'm soooo glad to see you spent it in style! Loved your card. Cheers!

  10. So much in this post!
    Lucky you and nice gift to yourself i wish i could see the exhibit
    Love the mustache segment, we had our share of mustaches at work and it was not real pretty sometimes but it is all for a good cause. My dad had prostate cancer about 10 or 12 years ago , he is fine now
    Your friend has amazing skills, love his shirt, very bold,lots of style!

    Have a great weekend

    Ariane xx

  11. Oh WOW - this exhibition looks AMAZING! Thanks so much for the great pics - especially the last one of you in your SMOKIN HOT in your leather pants and killer boots! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! LOTS OF LOVE! Sarah xxx

  12. What an awesome Birthday treat! Happy Belated!!! Thanks for sharing all the facial hair goodness. Whenever I'm in Mexico, I so enjoy the Frida (and many non-Frida!) tribute tchotchkes sporting unibrows - for my 40th, my mom cooked a traditional Mexican meal and everybody wore a unibrow. Though an echo of how she is celebrated in her own country, and part of her own symbolism, I can see how some might consider it mockery or cultural appropriation. What I love about the unibrow is that it remains transgressive.