Frida comes to life in Ancona, Italy
It has been over 100 years since the of the birth of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, a visionary ahead of her own time. Her independent ideas and spark for the initial feminist movement are revered not only in the art world but also in the social understanding of life imitating art. As I am currently in the Adriatic city of Ancona, Italy, I had the pleasure of attending an evening of art collaboration this past week. In a city over two millennia old, this forward-thinking atmosphere of Ancona is contagious, stirring creative juices in the coastal inhabitants of what once was a Greek colony. Nowhere else in Italy have I witnessed such a modern and progressive community, open to all forms of expression, and as visiting artist Ryan Daniel Beck put it, ‘It’s exciting to be in a place where the culture is in the process of changing and innovating, in the present, right now!’ Beck and local Ancona curator, Silvia Donati, organized an evening of art, personal creativity, book readings, poetry, installation pieces, and theater dance. So where does Frida come into this picture? The night consisted of a strong feminine, sexual influence, with a gallery of local artists’ works including Veronica Gigli’s panels of nine painted vaginas, each one square meter. A jarring sight, seeing the sex of various women painted and represented as blown up portraits, each was as individual as the secretive women’s facial portraits would have been. At various points throughout the evening, Beck was with young model Claudia Borgiani, posing quasi-nude for 20 minutes at a time to allow the creative juices of the audience to flow: sketch paper, pencils and erasers were scattered throughout the room for all to use. At first, the crowd was full of ambitious DaVincis and Micheangelos, but as the evening carried on, only those who truly felt inspired kept up with the challenge.
A partial book reading by young author Maurizio Mariscoli, and a poetry reading by actress Anna Caramia bookended some sketching sessions and the installation piece in the next room. Here is where Frida came to life: Simona Ficosecco, the artistic director of La Luna Dance Center, a progressive dance school in Ancona, created and directed the Frida installation piece located in the side-room of the space along with choreographing the dance performance which interpreted the life and work of the artist. Every female dancer was dressed identical to the iconic woman with tight braids clipped firmly atop her head, blood-red lipstick on her lips, a Spanish flower in her hair, and of course penciled-in eyebrows almost touching at each dancer’s third eye, the signature characteristic of Frida’s facial features.
But what I didn’t mention was where this evening of creativity was held – at Lazzaretto (La Mole) a pentagonal fort on the coast of the historical part of the city; a place where the sick and the invalid were kept during the time of naval exploration, the beginning of globalized communication. Located on the edge of the city’s water border, La Mole was designed to keep the diseases from incoming ships away from the city’s inhabitants. It is a unique structure with flat, wide bricks, uneven stone floors, and cave-like ceilings that arch and flow in the curving, Baroque style, transporting you to another time and place in history.
The evening’s music was moving, the movements were powerful, and the images of the many Fridas transforming into men’s clothes while seducing the other Fridas was evocative. A dramatic finish was a vigil to the artist with red candles: a one dead Frida collapsing after she cut her own hair, the living Fridas removing their flowers in homage to the shell of their character lying in front of them. It was beautifully done, and though the people of Ancona are familiar with La Mole’s setting, as an outsider, I cannot ignore the importance of having this historic building housing the performance and all of us in it. A place to hide the sick, acting as a modified prison for criminals of human error, Frida herself was in part a prisoner of her own advancement. The human error of being born a woman. The human error of thinking against the norm. The human error of being too creative, too sexual, too independent. Her own body was her prison, and with her art, she was able express that which was forbidden and ugly to the rest.
THE BARE FEET™ FIVE: 1. Frida Kahlo Museum: La Casa Azul, (the Blue House), also known as the Frida Kahlo Museum, was built by Frida’s father and was where Frida and her family lived in . Located in Coyoaçan, you can visit and can see Frida’s works in person.
2. Frida’s life: Frida Kahlo’s life was also interpreted by the film Frida, starring Salma Hayek. Hayek was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her role as the Mexican born artist – available on Netflix.
4. La Luna Dance Center: Ficosecco is the artistic director of the acclaimed dance school, La Luna Dance Center, in Ancona, Italy. Classes are offered throughout the year, along with a summer two-week dance intensive which is an amazing dance abroad opportunity for all ages!
5. Gran Galá: This summer’s Ancona Dance Festival concludes with il Gran Galá (The Showcase) on Saturday, July 21st, 2012 at La Mole. Pieces choreographed by guest teachers featuring students from La Luna Dance Camp will be premiering, including my own Bollywood number! For more information, go to AnconaDanceFestival.com.