On Display: Passion, Politics, and Painting

Friday, January 4, 2013

Frida & Diego Exhibit at the AGO 
(Art Gallery of Ontario)



"HE PAINTED FOR THE PEOPLE.
SHE PAINTED TO SURVIVE."

-Quoted from AGO's Frida 
and Diego Exhibit banners


This past week I had the opportunity to visit the AGO with my cousin and close friend Maria Merecoulias.  Maria is a high school teacher, graduate student, and art enthusiast.  In addition to all of this, she is a gifted painter and has inspired me to pursue my own creative passions.  

Here are Maria's reflections on the AGO's Freda and Diego Exhibit:

On "Art is a Weapon"
By: Maria Merecoulias


This t-shirt, memorabilia from the Frida and Diego exhibit currently curated at the AGO by Dot Tuer, has a profound message printed on it. “Art is a weapon (in the class struggle)”, a quote from Diego Rivera, a man who is at once an artist, a political activist, and a proud Mexican among a myriad of other epithets. Art can indeed be utilized as a weapon, a message, a tool, instead of more harmful dangerous weapons common in the ‘fight’ for freedom. Often, educators encounter students who are limited in their communication abilities, resulting in frustration because they cannot express themselves. Art can be the vehicle for which these students reveal their thoughts. Frustration and opposition in the form of art is an infinitely more effective release than other manifestations of frustration. No one is suggesting that ‘weapons’ are de jour, but to equate art with the power of a weapon is to say that art can conquer ‘evil’, art can ‘fight for freedom’, art can lead the way for political dialogue as Diego’s quote intended, and for learning as we would suggest via this post.

Both Diego and Frida were famous in their native Mexico, revered and respected for their various art forms and contributions to Mexican culture. Mainstream North American culture tends to limit the scope of art’s holy grail to predominantly European artists, and essentializes artists like Diego and Frida, the duo are synonymous with Mexican folk art, and self-portraits respectively. However their art has far more breadth and depth than what’s widely known, and is more complex than the tokenistic exotic representations of Mexican art in popular European and North American museums. The classroom is a reflection of the world at large; as such, if educators want to promote multiple ways of knowing, stray from Western ‘classics’ and forge a journey of discovery that’s extraordinary, this would be a great place to start. The Mexican culture is vast, beyond tacos and sombreros, if we dig deeper into our own ‘cultural’ (mis)representations in an attempt to be multicultural, we will notice that stereotypical representations are prevalent and can do a lot of damage.  There’s no simple method for inclusive art in the classroom, but acknowledging that the current practices are lackluster is a paint splatter in the right direction. 

I thank Maria for her profound insights, and for introducing me to two new artists that I would have never known about had we not visited this exhibit.

To close this Friday's feature, I would like to spotlight a few children's resources that pertain to today's "On Display" piece: 

Diego Rivera Children's Books

Frida Kahlo Children's Books

Frida's World Art App for Apple Users

Thank you to Maria Merecoulias for her contributions to our blog.  We look forward to having her as a guest blogger again soon!

Please note that the title of this blog post and images have been taken from the AGO's Frida and Diego Exhibit page http://www.ago.net/frida-diego-passion-politics-and-painting, outside the AGO, in the AGO gift shop, and from google images. Photographs in the actual exhibit were prohibited.  


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