From the Director


This summer, the Frist Art Museum’s exhibitions include Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection; Diana Al-Hadid: Sublimations; and Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s. Their alignment allows us to delve deeply into how artists from around the world and across time mine personal and cultural psychology. Individual impetus is filtered through intellectual, sociological, and political influences.

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) said, “I really do not know if my paintings are surrealist, but I know that they are the frankest expression of myself, without ever taking into consideration anyone’s judgement or prejudice. I have painted very little and without the slightest desire for glory or ambition, but before all else, out of the conviction that I enjoy it, and then to be able to make my living with my work. I am trying, as much as I can, to always be myself, with the bitter consciousness that many lives would not suffice to paint as I desire, and all that I desire.”*

Forbidden and repressed desires are distorted in dreams. Their disguised forms appear as substitution, displacement, and condensation—strategies we see in surrealism and surrealistic art. European wars and the buildup to those wars prompted many surrealists to immigrate not only to Mexico and the United States, but also to the Caribbean, Egypt, Japan, and South America.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the avant-garde experimental movement permeated poetry, art, and philosophy, as well as leftist and anti-colonial politics. It is especially germane in our increasingly interconnected world to know and understand the continued relevance of surrealism in literature, art, and thought. With this insight, we can better understand not only the art of our times, but also the motivation of individuals and nations.

Please take advantage of the many related programs we are offering this summer to learn more about surrealism, ourselves, and others.

Susan H. Edwards, PhD
Executive Director and CEO


* Quoted in Gisѐle Freund, Frida Kahlo: The Gisѐle Freund Photographs (New York: Abrams, 2014), 28–29.


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