© 2022 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Relative of Frida Kahlo discusses exhibition about the artist at the Broad Art Museum

Room of the "Kahlo Without Borders" exhibition with photos and art on walls, and a long table in center with more pieces
Eat Pomegranate Photography
/
Broad Art Museum

An exhibition on display at Michigan State University’s Broad Art Museum features works by historic painter Frida Kahlo. "Kahlo Without Borders" also includes photographs and pieces from the Kahlo family archives.

The artist’s grand-niece, Cristina Kahlo, is a professional photographer and art curator based in Mexico City. She also helped assemble the exhibition.

WKAR’s Scott Pohl spoke with Cristina Kahlo about her work and the exhibition.

Interview Highlights

On why she decided to pursue an artistic career

I decided to study photography because my father, Antonio, was an amateur photographer. So, we have at home a darkroom. I think I was ten or something like that when my father let me get into the darkroom and help him with the developing of the photographs. And so, at that moment, I decided that I want to be a photographer.

On being a part of a famous family

It's complicated to have a famous name, and more when you choose an artistic career also because it's not only Frida Kahlo, it's Guillermo Kahlo, my grand-grandfather that was also famous in photography in Mexico and in Germany, and now it's very well known also. So, it's not easy to carry the Kahlo name. It's like having a double work because I have my personal work as a photographer, as a curator, but at the same time I have to talk about the family.

On the message she'll share when she gives a talk at the Broad

We will be talking about the exhibition, and also we will be showing some familiar photographs, talking more about photography and photography at the Kahlo family. We will be talking about the line of this exhibition, what was a curatorial line, and what are the highlights and how to see it. Sometimes it's not only to hang up photographs and letters on the walls, it's interesting to know why they are important.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: An exhibition on display at Michigan State University’s Broad Art Museum features works by historic painter Frida Kahlo. "Kahlo Without Borders" also includes photographs and pieces from the Kahlo family archives.

The artist’s grand-niece, Cristina Kahlo, is a professional photographer and art curator based in Mexico City. She helped assemble the exhibition. On Thursday, she'll give a public talk at the museum.

WKAR's Scott Pohl spoke with Cristina Kahlo about her work and the exhibition.

Scott Pohl: I thought I would begin by asking you to describe growing up with that kind of heritage, and if it had an influence in your choice to go into an artistic life yourself.

Cristina Kahlo: I decided to study photography because my father, Antonio, was an amateur photographer. So, we have at home a darkroom. I think I was ten or something like that when my father let me get into the darkroom and help him with the developing of the photographs. And so, at that moment, I decided that I want to be a photographer.

Since I was ten, 11 years old, I want to be a photographer.

My father passed away when I was about 13, so I had to learn photography at the school. And it was up at the photography school where I knew that my grand-grandfather, Guillermo Kahlo, was a very famous photographer in Mexico, but I didn't know that until I was studying photography, so it's kind of coincidence. I really don't know what happened there, but since I was ten, 11 years old, I want to be a photographer.

Pohl: Since Frida Kahlo is known as a painter, did you ever consider painting?

Kahlo: Well, I never considered painting, really. I think that I was very, very clear that I want to be a photographer since I was a child. There are more photographers in the family than painters. Frida Kahlo was the only painter in the family but Guillermo Kahlo, Frida's father, was an amateur. He painted with watercolor.

Black and White Photo of Cristina Kahlo sitting next to an antique camera and a sculpture of a dog
Courtesy
/
Broad Art Museum

He made great paintings with watercolor, and that's when Frida had this well-known accident, and she started to paint. It was Guillermo, her father, who gave Frida the first pencils and colors, and so that's the way she started her career. But personally, I think I was always clear that I want to work with images.

Pohl: We're talking with Cristina Kalho. "Kalho Without Borders can be seen at the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.

Would you say it's been a help or a hindrance to your career to have a famous last name like Kahlo?

Kahlo: It's complicated to have a famous name, and more when you choose an artistic career also because it's not only Frida Kahlo, it's Guillermo Kahlo, my grand-grandfather that was also famous in photography in Mexico and in Germany, and now it's very well known also.

I have to talk about the family. I like to do that because it's important that people know what happened to the family after Frida Kahlo, what's going on with the Kahlo family.

So, it's not easy to carry the Kahlo name. It's like having a double work because I have my personal work as a photographer, as a curator, but at the same time I have to talk about the family.

I like to do that because it's important that people know what happened to the family after Frida Kahlo, what's going on with the Kahlo family.

Pohl: You're giving a public talk at the museum on Thursday night. What do you think you'll be discussing?

Kahlo: We will be talking about the exhibition, and also we will be showing some familiar photographs, talking more about photography and photography at the Kahlo family.

We will be talking about the line of this exhibition, what was a curatorial line, and what are the highlights and how to see it. Sometimes it's not only to hang up photographs and letters on the walls, it's interesting to know why they are important.

Pohl: Photographer Cristina Kahlo is the grand-niece of Frida Kahlo. The exhibition "Kahlo Without Borders" can be seen through August 7 at the Broad Art Museum on the campus of Michigan State University. Cristina Kahlo, thank you.

Kahlo: Thanks to you and please come and visit the exhibition, "Kahlo Without Borders."

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
Between now and Giving Tuesday, support the fact-based journalism you value with a financial contribution. Your investment keeps independent reporting available throughout mid-Michigan & beyond. Donate now to do your part to fund more local and national stories. Thank you!