The San Antonio Botanical Garden offers a serene oasis year-round, whisking you away through its natural beauty. And thanks to a new exhibit, that oasis has taken on an artistic hue from a beloved Mexican painter.
Frida Kahlo Oasis is a fantastic explosion of color, which is saying something. The lush green and an array of colorful bursting blooms filling the San Antonio Botanical Garden outdo any artist’s palette, but the Frida Kahlo focus is a perfect marriage of art and nature.
Who is Frida Kahlo?
If you don’t know the famous and beloved unibrow of Frida Kahlo, a brief tutorial: A Mexican painter, Kahlo (1906 – 1954) painted using vibrant colors in a style that was influenced by indigenous cultures of Mexico as well as European influences including Realism, Surrealism and Symbolism. She is celebrated in Mexico for her attention to Mexican and indigenous culture and by feminists for her depiction of the female experience and form. Many of her works are self-portraits that symbolically express her own deeply personal life experiences.
Casa Azul Centerpiece
Curated by the Botanical Garden, Frida Kahlo Oasis is the first exhibition of its kind in Texas. It brings a captivating rendition of the famous Mexican artist’s iconic blue home and lush green sanctuary, La Casa Azul, to life, while Kahlo-inspired sculptures dot the garden landscape. A Mexico City destination for Frida lovers, Casa Azul profoundly influenced Kahlo’s timeless art, making it the perfect centerpiece. In a 2,100 sq. ft. space nestled beneath mature oak trees, the Botanical Garden brings the shades, scents, sound and sights of Casa Azul and Frida’s own garden to San Antonio.
Using a tree canopy and colorful display walls that mimic the walls of Caza Azul, the outdoor space has an intimate feel. Walking through Casa Azul’s door seemingly transports you to Mexico City and you’re surrounded by lush greenery and scenes from Kahlo’s life, including the influence of husband Diego Rivera. You can explore landmark replicas that include Kahlo’s desk and easel, a recreation from her studio. The easel, a gift from Nelson Rockefeller, looks out on the butterfly garden, a perfect spot for artistic inspiration.
Best Selfie Spots
Kahlo’s frog-themed fountain soothingly bubbles away, with chairs nearby to give you an opportunity to sit and enjoy the scene. On our visit, a real-life frog was swimming his way across the fountain before he jumped out to enjoy the ferns. It’s easy to sit and get lost in the color and art on Rivera’s Pyramid, originally created to showcase his collection of pre-Hispanic art. Recreated here, it’s another spot sure to inspire selfies and social media posts.
The exhibition is more than just Casa Azul, with sculptures of animals that recur in Kahlo’s work popping up across the garden. You can’t miss the Xoloitzcuintli, or xolo, waiting to greet you. Kahlo had several as pets, making the oversized one that greets you along the garden path a wonderful introduction to the exhibition. Done in the style of a pre-Hispanic clay figure, it’s a sure selfie spot and one that children are drawn to.
Art All Around
Xolo is the first of six monumental animals sighted throughout the garden grounds which often appeared in her portraits. You’ll also spot a colorful butterfly, hummingbird, parrot, monkey and a deer, all hand-painted by Mexican artisans. “Botanical Fridas,” six sculptures of the artist herself, each decorated by different Mexican and Argentinian artists, are another playful nod to Kahlo that we’re sure she’d approve of.
Marrying Kahlo to the Botanical Garden’s collection, you’ll spot signs that highlight plants within the garden, like prickly pear cactus, philodendrons and elephant ears, that mirror those you’d find in Frida’s own garden. It’s a nice addition to the garden that gives botanical context to the exhibit.
Summer Evening Fun
True Kahlo fans must be sure to pop into SABOT’s gift shop for everything from books to earrings that commemorate all things Frida. And for summer evening fun, don’t miss Noches de Frida, when the Botanical Garden is open each Thursday night 6–9pm with food, drinks and music.
Noches de Frida runs through August 26 while Frida Kahlo Oasis is on view through November 2.
Cover photo courtesy San Antonio Botanical Garden
An award-winning writer and communications expert who runs Tale to Tell Communications, Dawn Robinette loves to tell stories about her adopted hometown of San Antonio. You can read more of her work at Alamo City Moms, San Antonio Woman and Rio Magazine.