Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo/Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo exhibit at Arkansas Arts Center from Feb 1 to April 14

Nickolas Muray, American (Szeged, Hungary, 1892 – 1965, New York, New York), Frida Kahlo on White Bench, New York (2nd Edition), 1939, color carbon print, 19 x 14 ½ inches. Courtesy of Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, New York.

The Arkansas Arts Center presents a rare opportunity to see one of Mexico’s greatest painters captured by some of the 20th century’s most important photographers. 

Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo/ Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo will be on view at the Arkansas Arts Center through April 14, 2019.

Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo features 65 images of Kahlo as art and artist. The photographs document Kahlo’s life as seen by the greatest photographers of the time – Lola and Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Imogen Cunningham, Emmy Lou Packard, Graciela Iturbide, Nickolas Muray, and Edward Weston, among others. From casual snapshots to intimate family photographs to artfully posed studio portraits, viewers will see the full spectrum of Kahlo’s life, from self-assured adolescent, to influential artist, fashion icon and passionate lover, as she takes on a mythic presence in our collective imagination.

In the hands of photojournalists, friends and artists, the camera allowed Kahlo to explore her own image and identity, document her marriage to the great muralist Diego Rivera, express her strong political views, and artfully reveal her life-long struggle to overcome her physical challenges. In the process, she ultimately defined the principal subject of her own art – herself.

Photographing Frida is an opportunity to see Frida Kahlo as you’ve never seen her before,” Chief Curator Brian J. Lang said. “These images defined not only the way the world saw her – and continues to see her – but how she saw and depicted herself through her own work.”

Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico in 1907. Her father, Guillermo Kahlo, was a photographer, and often photographed the young Frida. Through her father’s portraits, she became acquainted with the power of her own image.

In 1929, Kahlo married muralist Diego Rivera. Throughout their tumultuous marriage, the couple was often photographed together, both in Mexico and in the United States. Rivera was a major presence, both in Kahlo’s life and in the photographs that document their life. As they traveled through Mexico and the United States, “Frida and Diego” – as they were affectionately known – became a source of fascination and intrigue for the paparazzi: Kahlo, stunning in her Tehuana dresses, beribboned hair and beaded jewelry, accompanied her famous muralist husband. Photos of their second wedding (the couple divorced in 1939, only to remarry a year later) in California were captured by American press photographers.

The exhibition reveals Kahlo’s fascination with fashion – as self-expression, political expression, and a means for concealing her physical disabilities. She was often photographed wearing traditional Mexican clothing – Tehuana dresses, huipils and rebozos, and beaded jewelry. Under the voluminous skirts and flowing dresses, she was able to hide the injuries that had affected her since youth. The pre-Hispanic clothing she was so fond of allowed her to express her belief in mexicanidad – the nationalist movement that found its inspiration in pre-Columbian Mexico after the end of the Mexican Revolution.

Kahlo continued to be photographed until her death in 1954. To each photographer she encountered, she became something new – ever present and continually beguiling – but made different through their lens. In the process, she herself became a work of art.

Photographing Frida features images by Lola Álvarez Bravo, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Florence Arquin, Lucienne Bloch, Imogen Cunningham, Gisèle Freund, Hector Garcia, Juan Guzman, Graciela Iturbide, Peter Juley, Guillermo Kahlo, Bernice Kolko, Leo Matiz, Nickolas Muray, Emmy Lou Packard, Victor Reyes, Bernard Silberstein, Edward Weston and Guillermo Zamora. A fully-illustrated catalogue, Mirror, Mirror: Portraits of Frida Kahlo, featuring an essay by Salomon Grimberg, a noted authority on Latin American art, accompanies the exhibition.

Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo/Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo is organized by the Arkansas Arts Center in collaboration with Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, New York. The exhibition is sponsored by Bank of America; JC Thompson Trust; Judy Fletcher, In Memory of John R. Fletcher; Belinda Shults; Laura Sandage Harden and Lon Clark; Holleman & Associates, P.A.; Barbara House; and Rhonda and Tim Jordan. Additional support by Consulate of Mexico in Little Rock.


Little Rock Look Back: National Balloon Race starts in Little Rock

On April 29, 1926, nine hot air balloons took off from Little Rock’s airport (which was actually just an airfield at the time) in a national race to win the Litchfield Trophy.  In addition to the trophy, the winner would be on the American team in an international balloon race in Belgium.

The New York Times coverage noted that the weather conditions were ideal as the balloons took off in five minute intervals between 5:00pm and 5:30pm.  The test balloon (akin to a pace car in a car race) was the Arkansas Gazette‘s Skylark.  It took off at 4:25 and headed in the direction of the northeast, which was the desired direction.

The nine balloons, in order of liftoff were: the US Army from Phillips Field in Maryland; the US Army from McCook Field in Ohio; the Goodyear Southern California; the Detroit; the Goodyear IV (whose pilot Ward T. Van Orman had won the 1924 and 1925 contests); US Army from Scott Field; a balloon piloted by a Danish pilot Svend A. U. Rasmussen; US Army balloon from Langley Field in Virginia; and the Akron National Aeronautic Association balloon.

The pilots carried provisions for 48 hours and were equipped for sea flying.  Each had a radio and loud speaker.  KTHS radio of Hot Springs (a forerunner to today’s KTHV TV station) was broadcasting the location of each balloon.  As they left the Arkansas radio station’s range, there was a network of other stations which would do the same.

It was expected that the race would last between eighteen and thirty-six hours.  The last balloon aloft was Van Orman for the third year.  He lasted approximately 31 hours and landed near Chesapeake Bay.

Though no headcount was given, the New York Times called the viewing audience “the largest crowd ever assembled in Little Rock.”

Many thanks to Brian Lang of the Arkansas Arts Center for giving me the tip on this.

The Arkansas Arts Center chooses Studio Gang as design architect

The Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) announced on Tuesday the selection of Studio Gang as design architect for its upcoming building project.
“We had a number of highly qualified firms respond to our RFQ, and narrowing this impressive group down to the five finalists was extremely difficult,” said Todd Herman, executive director for the Arkansas Arts Center. “All five finalists were incredibly talented with international reputations and credentials. The Arts Center would have been well served by any one of them. We were in a great position to choose from such an impressive pool of talent.”

The five firms selected as finalists were Allied Works (Portland, Ore./New York), Shigeru Ban (New York/Paris/Tokyo, Japan), Studio Gang (Chicago/New York), Thomas Phifer (New York) and Snohetta (Oslo, Norway/New York/San Francisco).

Herman said the selection committee felt Studio Gang was the best fit for the project, due to the firm’s elegant and smart approach to architecture, their understanding of the issues posed by the AAC’s current facility, their vision for the center as a cultural beacon for Central Arkansas and their commitment to sustainability and strength as urban planners.

Founded by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang is an award-winning architecture and urbanism practice based out of Chicago and New York. A recipient of the 2013 National Design Award, Jeanne Gang was also named the 2016 Archiitect of the Year by the Architectural Review and the firm was awarded the 2016 Architizer A+ award for Firm of the Year.

Studio Gang is recognized internationally for a design process that foregrounds the relationships between individuals, communities and environments. The firm has extensive knowledge in museum, theatre and artist studio spaces, with projects ranging from the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Ill. to the Aqua Tower in Chicago to the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

“Designing a re-envisioned Arkansas Arts Center is a truly exciting commission,” Gang said. “Its extraordinary collection, historic MacArthur Park setting, and rich mix of programs present a unique opportunity to redefine how the arts can strengthen local communities and surrounding regions. We look forward to working closely with the AAC to discover how architecture can enhance the Center’s important civic and cultural mission by creating new connections between people and the arts in Little Rock and beyond.”

An RFQ for a local architect to collaborate on the project will be issued later this month.

“When the Arkansas Arts Center project is completed, it will not just be a renovated facility, it will be a re-envisioned experience,” Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said. “The enhanced building will offer opportunities for an even higher level of exhibits, classes, children’s theatre productions and special events, making the Arkansas Arts Center not only a signature tourist attraction, but an even more important cultural anchor for the arts community in Little Rock.”

“It is well known that businesses looking to locate or expand look at a city’s quality of life offerings,” Stodola said. “An enhanced Arkansas Arts Center will be a showcase which will enable us to attract and retain quality job creators in a variety of sectors.”

Herman said he is looking at the project holistically, including Historic MacArthur Park, and reevaluating how the Arts Center meets the needs of its community.

“This project is about more than just addressing the physical issues of the current building. It requires rethinking how the AAC fits into the downtown fabric,” said Herman. “How can we best serve the community, and how do the AAC and MacArthur Park connect to other social and cultural nodes in downtown Little Rock? We want to do more than build; we want to transform the cultural experience.”

The five finalists presented their firm’s general project approach and design philosophies to the selection committee on November 1, 2016. The presentations took place in the AAC lower lobby lecture hall and were open for public viewing. More than 100 people were in attendance at the presentations, including students, community members and media.

The committee determined their selection at a public meeting on December 6, 2016. The selection committee included: AAC Executive Director Todd Herman; City Director Dean Kumpuris; Director of Little Rock Parks and Recreation Truman Tolefree; AAC Board Chair Mary Ellen Irons; AAC Board members Isabel Anthony, Van Tilbury and Chucki Bradbury; AAC Foundation Chair Bobby Tucker; Little Rock Small Business Development official Chauncey Holloman; and past Director of the Central Arkansas Library System Bobby Roberts.

A technical review panel was responsible for reviewing all proposals and recommending a slate of finalists to the selection committee, based on specialized criteria outlined in an RFQ that reflected the specific needs and goals of the AAC.  The technical review panel included: AAC Executive Director Todd Herman, AAC Chief Curator Brian Lang, Architect Ken Sims, Dean of the Fay Jones School of Architecture Peter MacKeith, Chair of the AAC Buildings and Grounds Committee Kaki Hockersmith and international museum consultant Deborah Frieden.

The leadership phase of a capital campaign to maximize the impact of public dollars dedicated to the project is currently underway.

“Anyone and everyone can participate in the creation of a new Arkansas Arts Center,” Herman said. “The Arts Center is a symbol of the importance that this community ­– and state – places on culture, arts education and quality of life, and all Arkansans will have the opportunity to share in that civic pride.”

Nathalia Edenmont: Force of Nature exhibit brings larger than life photographs to Arkansas Arts Center

AAC LargerLifeToday through May 1, the Arkansas Arts Center plays host to photographer Nathalia Edenmont’s first major U.S. exhibition.

Nathalia Edenmont: Force of Nature is the artist’s first solo exhibition in a major American museum and features ten, richly colored, large-format photographs. Five of the photographs, including Eden, a self-portrait of the artist, are recent works and have never before been exhibited. Force of Nature is organized by the Arkansas Arts Center and Nancy Hoffman Gallery (New York City) and is presented in conjunction with the Garden Club of America Zone 9 annual meeting, which occurs in Little Rock in late-April 2016.

“Nathalia Edenmont’s photos are striking both in terms of their scale and colorful content,” said Brian J. Lang, chief curator and curator of contemporary craft at the Arkansas Arts Center. “We look forward to hosting Edenmont’s first major U.S. exhibition, giving Arkansans the opportunity to be among the first to see some of her most recent photos.”

Born in 1970 in Yalta, Ukraine, Nathalia Edenmont moved to Sweden by the age of 20, realizing that life in the former Soviet Union was disintegrating and held no future for her. At 27, Edenmont enrolled in the Forsbergs Skola to study graphic design. At the school her artist-mentor, Per Hüttner, encouraged her to visualize her inner pictures and to try to capture them with the camera.

All of Edenmont’s photographs derive from her life experience. “I only look inside my head,” the artist explains. “What I see in my mind is what I create. I do not sketch; the image is complete and sharp within me. I have absolute control over all aspects of what I do.”

Using a large-format Sinar camera with 8×10 film and many lenses, Edenmont works with a team of eight to twelve people over the course of one day to compose a single “shot.” She has two camera assistants (both professional photographers), a hair stylist and a dressmaker.

What each figure wears is central to the meaning of each work. The artist’s “portraits” reflect intensity, each subject stands expressionless and motionless against a pitch-black background, cloaked in flowers revealing only her neck and shoulders; light emanates from within. It is the “flower pile” or dress the artist composes that tells the tale, sometimes with birds or snakes, sometimes with fresh flowers or vegetables, and at other times with wilted blooms. “Since my childhood I have heard that a woman’s beauty is like a flower, it passes quickly,” Edenmont says. “That is why I switch from fresh flowers to dry and very old. I see much beauty in dried flowers. I grew up as a Russian Orthodox and in the cemetery the fresh graves covered in flowers looked like my flower piles from which I compose my dresses.”

Edenmont is a two-time recipient of the Konstnarsnamndens Arbetsstipendium, a grant awarded by the Culture Department in Stockholm, Sweden. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including museums in Sweden, Russia and Germany; Nathalia Edenmont: Force of Nature is the artist’s first solo exhibition in a major American museum.

Edenmont will speak at an AAC Member Lecture & Late Night event at 6 p.m. on Thursday, January 21. A book signing will immediately follow the lecture.

Nathalia Edenmont: Force of Nature is sponsored by Tipton & Hurst, Kara and David Dowers for Annie Dowers and Dr. and Mrs. Charles Cole.

Architecture & Design Network focuses on architectural photographer Pedro E. Guerrero

pedro e guererroTonight at 6pm at the Arkansas Arts Center, the Architecture and Design Network, in collaboration with the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), will present an  American Masters Series film “Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey.”
Following the film, there will be a panel discussion with Dr. Ethel Goodstein-Murphree, Associate Dean, Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, and Professor of Architecture, Chair; Brian Lang, Chief Curator, Arkansas Arts Center; and Tim Hursley, architectural photographer. A reception at 5:30 will take place prior to the screening and discussion.
Directed and produced by the award winning team of Ray Telles and Ivan Iturruaga, the American Masters Series film, Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey, recounts the Arizona native’s life (1917-2012) and remarkable career. In 1939, the then 22 year old Guerrero, a novice photographer who had studied photography at the Art Center in Pasadena, CA, was hired by Frank Lloyd Wright to document the construction of Taliesin West, then being built on a site overlooking Paradise Valley. Wright’s spur of the moment decision to hire him led to a relationship that lasted until Wright’s death in 1959, interrupted only by the young man’s Army Air Corps service during WW II.
Guerrero’s twenty year association with Wright catapulted him into the center of modernist art and architecture. Moving to New York City following the war, while still working with Wright, Guerrero was much sought after by major magazines that focused on architecture and design. He also went on to photograph the work of sculptors Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson as well the artists themselves.
In addition to  excerpts of interviews with art historians and critics long familiar with Guerrero’s work, the film offers a view of  his early life experience – his growing up in an Arizona town, not far from Taliesin West, where educational opportunities for offspring of families with Mexican roots were limited. While  he intended to study art after high school, his introduction to photography altered his course.
Support for  Architecture and Design Network (ADN), a non-profit organization, is provided  the Arkansas Arts Center, the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, the Central Arkansas Section of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and friends in the community. The film’s showing and the reception that precedes it are free and open to the public. For  additional information contact

Arkansas Literary Festival continues today with panels and Author! Author! party

AR Lit Fest 2014The 11th annual Arkansas Literary Festival continues today and runs through Sunday. Unless otherwise specified the events are free.


Highlights for today are:

11 a.m. – Pulaski Technical College Wills Lecture Hall
“Complex Glories of Love in Varied Forms” featuring Charlotte Pence (The Branches, The Axe, The Missing) and Adam Prince (The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men). Sandy Longhorn will be the moderator


12 noon – Arkansas Arts Center
“Crafty Allure” – Amy Azzarito (Past and Present) with Brian Lang as moderator


12 noon – Clinton School of Public Service at Sturgis Hall
“Shaping Dixie” – Angie Maxwell (The Indicted South) with Skip Rutherford as moderator.


12 noon – Darragh Center at CALS Main Library
“Kill ‘em Clean” – Catherine Coulter (The Final Cut) – Paid event


6:30 pm – Darragh Center at CALS Main Library
“Penning in Piggott, Eureka!” – Adam Long and Linda Caldwell. Stephanie Vanderslice as moderator


8:00 pm – 5th Floor of CALS Main Library
“Author! Author!” – Paid event, reception to meet authors and moderators for the weekend.


The Cox Creative Center will be having a used book sale on Friday from 9am to 5pm. In addition there will be a used book sale in the CALS basement from 10am to 4pm.