July 25, 2019 | Frida’s Fragrance: Art, Scent, & Persona presented by Think Olio

On a Thursday evening, we sat down with Aromaphile and Art Historian at The Brooklyn Museum, Jessica Murphy.

We were taken into a world of Frida Kahlo not often discussed – her choice of perfume. The topic of discussion: What can her selected scents reveal about the artist and her deliberate self-presentation?

Frida Facts:

She is best known for her self-portraits.

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”

She was politically active throughout her adulthood.

“I have read the history of my country and of nearly all nations. I know their class struggles and their economic conflicts.”

She was married to another Mexican artist, Diego Rivera.

“I have suffered two grave accidents in my life, one in which a streetcar knocked me down… The other accident is Diego.”

She was not world-famous during her lifetime.

“Rivera does pretty well for a little boy, but it is I who am the big artist.”

Her life was shaped in large part by injury and illness.

“In this hospital, death dances around my bed at night.”

Our knowledge of Kahlo as an artist and a woman is extensive. However, new sources of information were revealed in 2004, when the Museo Frida Kahlo opened two rooms of Kahlo’s home that had been sealed since her death. The contents of those rooms included previously unknown works of art, hundreds of photographs, personal papers, and personal possessions such as garments, jewelry, and cosmetics.

The “rediscovery” of these intimate belongings has expanded our understanding of Kahlo’s deliberate, meaningful self-presentation in her art and life. And if we can analyze Kahlo’s multi-layered identity through her choice of regional Mexican dress, for example, what can we say about her collection of perfumes? Similar to fashion, scent can be a form of self-expression, a means of shaping and sharing a persona.

About our partner:

Think Olio is not about learning a new skill or adding credentials to your resume. It is about getting together with other people and expanding our worldview. It exists as a conduit for fruitful discussions, a dissent from the regurgitation of facts, and an embrace of new perspectives.

Photos by Alexander Kusak