Frida and Me–Common Threads, at Projects

[We occasionally run a post contributed by students in Colette Copeland’s class on writing art criticism, at the University of Pennsylvania. This is one of those posts.]

Post by Jessica Bell

Michelle Angela Ortiz
Michelle Angela Ortiz, La Madre, La Hija, Esperito Buscando, triptych, 49 x 72 inches


The exhibition “Frida and Me Common Threads,” currently on display at Projects Gallery, features the work of four Latina contemporary artists. Organized in anticipation of the Frida Kahlo exhibition, which opens at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Feb. 20, this exhibit seeks to explore the same themes of identity, gender, and culture that Mexican painter Kahlo struggled with in her art seventy years ago.

Though each of the featured artists―-Doris Noguiera-Rogers, Michelle Angela Ortiz, Marilyn Rodriguez-Behrle, and Marta Sanchez―-works in a different medium with a distinctly unique style, all cite Kahlo as a source of influence and inspiration.

One of the most poignant works in the exhibit, Michelle Angela Ortiz’s acrylic painting on wood titled La Madre, La Hija, Esperito Buscando, depicts the artist, her mother, and her grandmother, each separated by a wooden frame, yet unified by their almost identical stances and facial expressions. Each of the three women, representing three generations of life, have their hands cupped and open, as if reaching out toward the viewer. While the grandmother and mother are holding seeds and leaves respectively, the artist, placed in the last frame, is holding nothing. It appears that the older women are offering gifts to the viewer, but the artist is waiting to accept one. This triptych demonstrates not only the artist’s talent for portraiture, but also her struggle to find her own identity within a cohesive culture. She seems to be asking: What will my contribution to the world be? How will I follow and yet diverge from those who came before me?


Marta Sanchez
Marta Sanchez, Blind Man Walking in the Sun

Marta Sanchez’s Train Yard Stop in Daylight is another of the more striking works featured in the exhibit. Composed of oil and enamel on metal, the painting’s vibrant colors and thick, cartoon-like brush strokes initially mask its deeper meaning. A woman’s face is apparent in the clouds above a train yard. Her arms swoop down, as graceful as the wind, to embrace the majority of the painting’s space. Traditionally dressed Latina women and children are depicted both in and outside of her embrace. A lone boy― the sole figure painted in black-and-white― stands near the bottom of the picture. He walks briskly forward, head held high and hand up, as if trying to evade the surrounding commotion. The boy can either stay where he is and embrace his culture, or jump on a train and run away from it. He appears to be hesitating on the cusp of this decision, perhaps representing the artist’s personal struggle with her own identity and place in society.

“Frida and Me Common Threads” features numerous other contemplative works of art, all of which are worth viewing. The exhibition will run from Feb. 1-23, 2008 at Projects Gallery, 629 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia.


–Jessica Bell is a student in multi-media artist Colette Copeland’s critical writing class at the University of Pennsylvania.