December 8, 2023, Feliz Cumpleaños, Diego!

“VIVA CARMELITA”: photos by Will Maynez

Dear Friends of Diego,

Took a running head start for Diego’s birthday last month with a 10-day visit to Mexico City with my buddies art conservators Anne Rosenthal and Kiernan Graves.  Covid had canceled our mural team’s 2020 trip and the air tickets were due to expire. Our thought was to see Rivera’s work and to visit project friends. The trip dates were finalized by the chance to celebrate Dia de los Muertos and an invitation.

Over lunch in San Francisco, long-time friend Adriana Williams, biographer of Miguel Covarrubiasinvited me to her 90th birthday party in Mexico City. A sumptuous fiesta was held at the stately archives of her grandfather President Plutarco Elías Calles. The next day we took an excursion on the Xochimilco canals, complete with Mariachis, beer, and food. In Mexico City, it is always about the food! In 2006 at the late Dra. Guadalupe Rivera’s Encuentro Internacional de Pintura Mural, a group of us cruised in a trajinera named after my late wife, Carmelita. Seeing her name float by this time reminded me of our last trip in 2007 when we spent Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca¡Que viva Carmelita por siempre!

The Casa Estudio Museum is currently being renovated, but some of its artifacts were on display in the adjoining building, also designed by Juan O’Gorman. These elevated living/working quarters were built with the monies Diego earned on his first trip to San Francisco.

Across the street, the manager of the San Angel Inn invited us in to see the place where George Gershwin stayed in 1935 and actress Paulette Goddard stayed in 1940.  Their chance encounter at a 1937 Beverly Hills party actor Edward G. Robinson hosted for composer Igor Stravinsky introduced Paulette into the narrative of our mural story. Because of her, Nieves Orozco would not marry Diego (but would go on to marry the richest communist in the US, Frederick Vanderbilt Field).  Diego and Frida remarried in San Francisco’s City Hall on his birthday, Dec. 8, 1940. Here is some film footage of Paulette and George in Palm Springs. The Library of Congress should at some time make publicly available the photos that Gershwin took in México, which have so enriched my research.

 

Our colleague, curator Karla Niño de Rivera, gave us a tour of her turf, Anahuacalli, Diego’s home for his pre-Columbian art collection. It was stunningly decorated inside for Dia de los Muertos and her hospitality was a highlight. We left a mural brochure on the ofrenda for Diego’s daughter, Lupe. Accompanied by her dog Chicharrón, Karla showed us some caches of Diego acquisitions not on public display.

Karla called ahead and facilitated our entry to Frida’s Casa Azul. After enjoying that teeming museum, we savored an hour and a half visit with the pre-eminent Rivera and Frida scholar Luis-Martin Lozano. He was the consultant on the BBC2 Becoming Frida documentary and many years ago was our Fulbright scholar at CCSF. He gave us copies of his latest Taschen Frida Kahlo book and regaled us with his analysis of the Diego-Frida relationship. He had recently consulted on Christie’s sale of Frida’s Portrait of Cristina, My Sister. Luis-Martin and my late research partner Julia Bergman were dear friends.

 

The Palacio de Bellas Artes has a wonderful selection of murals by Rivera, Siqueiros, Orozco, Tamayo, and others. Man, Controller of the Universe, Rivera’s recreation of the destroyed Man At The Crossroads at Rockefeller Center is worth the visit all by itself. Nearby is the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, home of Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central Park. Over the years I’ve spent several Sunday afternoons in the park, catching the latest version of the people’s weekend outing. In Chronicles of San Francisco, the French artist JR depicted me as the balloon seller in the Rivera mural.

We went to UNAM to visit friends Professor Alejandro Ramirez Reivich and his wife Professor Pili Corona. We toured campus murals, like the iconic mosaic on the main library by Juan O’Gorman. At the post-graduate Mechanical Engineering labs, we examined a sawed-off remnant from the mural panel facsimiles constructed to obtain data on what vibrations our masterpiece could withstand. The orange steel extrusion shown here was no longer available, so they fabricated it from scratch, including the cut outs and indentations. Led by Alejandro, their analysis was indispensable to the successful execution of the mural move.

 

Our friend UNAM professor and conservator Sandra Zetina took us to Cárcamo, Rivera’s murals and sculpture at the waterworks, which I’d never seen. The now empty sump is an encyclopedia of Rivera imagery. Outside the large relief sculpture of the water deity Tlaloc is meant to be seen from the sky by airplanes, birds, and UFO’s.

Cárcamo with (l-r) Sandra Zetina, Kiernan Graves, and Anne Rosenthal.

At the Anthropology Museum, we drew a beeline for the Mexica Sala to see the two versions of the Coatlicue featured in the mural’s central icon. On the way out we caught the Voladores, half-way down their tethered, spiral descent off the tall pole. Diego refers to them in the mural’s upper panel 2 as the smokestacks with guy wires.

 

Though we went to San Ildefonso, we were not able to see Rivera’s Creation this time, however we did see the Orozco and Siqueiros murals. At the nearby Mercado Abelardo Rodriguez, we saw murals by Marion and Grace Greenwood and a sculpture by Isamu Noguchi. All the while I was enthralled by my friends’ commentary on painting and conservation techniques, which made this trip special.

The Templo Mayor was the center of Tenochtitlan, the city the Mexica (Aztecs) founded after a 200-year search. Over the years its museum has become more accessible and large models recreate how it looked in antiquity. Recently the Digital Florentine Codex (getty.edu) has been published to help in understanding the ancient writings. The museum is at the Zocalo, the large city square which had giant effigies for the holiday. Though the Palacio Nacional is also on the Zocalo (in background), its Rivera murals were inaccessible during the holidays.

 

Ephemera

Here’s an article on the mural at SFMOMA by the Koret Foundation, one of the principal project funders.

The World’s 20 Best Cities for Culture Right Now (timeout.com) Mexico City is #1.

Moran’s to sell the estates of Fred W. Davis and Dr. Amy Conger! (prnewswire.com)

Commentary

If I have learned anything from all the mural research, it is that there is no getting around the vagaries of history. Unfortunately, our story has not had a happy conclusion. SFMOMA and CCSF have filed a suit and cross complaint about who is responsible for paying for the mural’s return to City College.

Whatever the resolution to the suits, Pan American Unity is going into storage after January 2024, probably for 4 years.

The City Club has put their once monthly mural tours on hold.

The SFAI mural is closed, but there is still hope philanthropists can save it as an art center. The Archives have been relocated.

The Stern frescofully conserved, has returned to Berkeley. They are looking to build a better venue, so it will go into storage for 3 years.

After January 2024 all the San Francisco Rivera murals will be publicly inaccessible. Cannot seem to wrap my mind or my heart around that.

Saludos,

Guillermo

September 2023

Ernest O. Lawrence, Diego, and Emmy Lou Packard at UCB’s Rad Lab.

Dear Friends of Diego,

The few “degrees of separation” paradox that characterizes the Diego Rivera in San Francisco story has struck again. Just saw the film Oppenheimer and was reminded of a Rivera connection. The above picture shows Diego and his assistant Emmy Lou Packard visiting Ernest O. Lawrence at the Rad Lab (Radiation Lab) at UC Berkeley on Aug. 28, 1940, a couple of years before J. Robert Oppenheimer appeared and the issue of the bomb arose. Diego might have been the first communist (who wasn’t a a scientist) to visit there. The book they are perusing is unknown. Rivera was very inquisitive and one of the main dualities he incorporated in the Pan American Unity mural is the reconciliation of Art and Science. The very first characters that the Mexican artist wanted in the mural were Samuel F.B. Morse and Robert Fulton. A Pflueger note while on his April 1940 Mexico City visit was to follow up with research on the two inventors for Rivera’s use. Morse had obliterated time with his invention of the telegraph and Morse code. Now messaging was “instantaneous.” (It is a revelation to some younger mural visitors that messaging hasn’t always been “instantaneous.”) Fulton obliterated space with his working steamboat and now travel was not dictated by the wind. Ever the engineer Rivera was enthused that these two great inventors were also artists.

Oppenheimer’s relationship with communism mirrors Rivera’s; neither was able to toe the line. Rivera had been expelled from the PCM, the Mexican communist party in 1929. The Mexican artist wanted an indigenous party, not one controlled by Stalin from Moscow. American Prometheus author Kai Bird in a New Yorker podcast, said Oppenheimer “was not the kind of man to submit himself to party discipline.” However, though it seems that the scientist did join the party, he denied it during security clearance hearings. Diego went so far as to script an article for the Russian Hill Runt, “I Am Not A Communist.” Though, philosophically, both were communists, they needed to unload that baggage, which hindered their agendas. In 1940 Diego had finally gotten his foot back in the door after the exile from the US over the Rockefeller incident, ostensibly for his inclusion of a portrait of Lenin in the mural. Mental reservations were made for the “greater good” as these titans perceived them. (A Russian Hill Runt newsletter drawing confirms that Frida went to the public opening of the mural in early December, though she had told Dr. Eloesser she was not interested in attending the private opening on November 29, when “all those dames” would be there.)

Ambiguity infuses these stories with ironies. Rivera depicted Stalin as one of the bad guys. Yet by June 1941, just seven months after the mural was finished, he was an ally, “Uncle Joe”, after Hitler invaded the USSR with Operation Barbarossa. By the end of the war both Diego and Frida were Stalinists. Oppenheimer led the construction of the bomb, but later campaigned against its use. But it was he who had opened Pandora’s Box.

The latest news on the San Francisco Art Institute is that it is for sale, including the mural. However, “A group of nine arts and business leaders, including philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, is pursuing the purchase of the bankrupt San Francisco Art Institute’s vacant Russian Hill campus.” Librarian/Archivist Jeff Gunderson writes that “We are thrilled to be up-and-running at the SFAI Legacy Foundation +Archive—welcoming researchers with great topics—so far from the University of Exeter in England (tech & art/eco-art from the ‘60s & ‘70s), Stanford (Bernice Bing, Win Ng, Charles Wong), CSU-Chico (AE Women Artists ‘40s-‘60s), a NYC scholar researching Bill Berkson!, and San Francisco historian, Lee Bruno investigating the artistic fallout from the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition!”  There’s a 1917 listing for Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco living at 628 Montgomery, the “Monkey Block”.

A worst-case scenario is that all three of Diego Rivera’s San Francisco murals will be publicly inaccessible after the March 2024 storage of the Pan American Unity mural (SF Mercury News front page article-for subscribers only, unfortunately.) The City Club is private, as it has always been, but all three Rivera murals form an artistic legacy for San Francisco, unique outside of México. (The smaller Still Life with Blossoming Almond Trees has been conserved at SFMOMA, but its re-display at UC Berkeley will be delayed as a new more accessible venue is prepared.) The prolonged local storage of  another of the GGIE’s artifacts, the large Covarrubias maps, is a sobering case study. (Lithos of the painted maps.)

There is a civic, moral, and ethical responsibility that goes with owning world-class masterpieces, which can last centuries. The enduring care of the Pan American Unity fresco mural requires yet unrealized institutional protocols. A non-binding MOU the college signed with the Mexican Consulate in 2011 speaks to the need for future cooperation, but you cannot care for the mural with platitudes only. Someone will always have to be el Custodio of the mural.

Facilitated by SFMOMA’s intervention, the mural is being passed to the future in great shape as 300,000 museum viewers can attest. The mural has been cleaned & conserved and “panel mounts” have been bolted to the back of the mural to strengthen it and facilitate handling & mounting. Cultural Heritage Imaging recorded a mural benchmark; a 3D photogrammetry shoot, whose massive digital files are preserved in perpetuity at Stanford University. A new Diego Rivera Theatre at CCSF will eventually showcase the masterpiece.

Frida’s exposure with San Francisco Opera’s work, El Ultimo sueño de Frida y Diego this past June, will continue next year with a San Francisco Ballet work on the Mexican artist in April 2024. This is choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Broken Wings, first performed by English National Ballet and danced by Tamara Rojo, who is now the artistic director of San Francisco Ballet. In 2018 I had the honor to show the mural to Ms. Lopez Ochoa when we were connected by our friend Celia Fushille, outgoing Artistic Director of the Smuin Ballet.

ALERT: The long awaited BBC2 three-part documentary Becoming Frida Kahlo will be aired on PBS beginning September 19 at 9/8C.

Visitors:

Retired art mover Scott Atthowe came by to visit the mural. Nobody had thought about the mural move more than Scott and it became his grand exit. His company is now in the sure hands of his former employees, now owners. Scott had already been thinking of the mural move for a decade when I met him in 2004, when his company installed the replica 14 ton Olmec head (a gift from the Mexican state of Veracruz) in the Frida Garden adjacent to the mural at CCSF. In 2011 we engaged Scott, conservator Anne Rosenthal, and the late engineer Jim Guthrie to evaluate the viability of a mural move. Some people say we did it because the theatre building was structurally unsound. This was not the case. The evaluation reflected the reality that the mural could long outlive the building and would have to be moved some day. SFMOMA’s offer to borrow the mural and execute the delicate move was the best thing that has happened to the mural. The siting of the mural at SFMOMA answered many design questions and gave the mural the international exposure it deserved.

Mural visitor Mike Bernhardt recently sent me a link to a short refugee story, The Tides of War. Sometimes, we can collect facts about WWII, but have a poor sense of the impact on ordinary people.

José Moya del Pino was an artist in the Bay area. Originally from Spain, he brought a collection of Velasquez reproductions he had painted at the request of King Alfonso XIII to the Bay area. He ended up staying. I only knew of him because of a photo of the Family Club. Recently his family came to visit the mural, daughter Tina and granddaughters Paola and Anna.

https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/items/detail/lucien-labaudt-diego-rivera-and-others-6340

Here is Rivera in 1940 with some  members of The Family Club, a split off from the Bohemian Club. These are mainly artists Rivera met on his first 1930 visit. Left to Right, Standing Lucien Laubdt (Beach Chalet), Antonio Sotomayor (Grace Cathedral), José Moya del Pino (Coit Tower), Otis Oldfield (Coit Tower), William Gerstle (SF Art Institute), artist Phil Little, architect Timothy Pflueger, seated are Diego Rivera and Charles Black (head of PG&E and Shirley Temple’s father-in-law).

José was good buddies with Otis Oldfield, who is the figure sketching in the central image below from Coit Tower. The “Hooded Nuns,” anthropomorphic industrial chimneys, from the Simmons Mattress Factory on Bay Street that Diego included in all his San Francisco murals, are depicted in Moya del Pino’s work at Coit Tower. He used to come and visit Rivera on the scaffolding when he was painting his first work Allegory of California at the Pacific Stock Exchange Lunch Club and they could chat in Spanish. Frida’s use of the image was not affectionate.

Canadian Consul General Rana Sarkar has come by a couple of times. He will help host APEC CEO’s conference being held at Moscone in November. We’re hoping to get the original Covarrubias maps from the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition displayed for this gathering of countries from the Pacific rim.

As the Moscone Centers conferences have ramped up, we’ve had architects, psychiatrists, game developers, and cyber security personnel meeting. Many attendees have come by to visit the mural and the foot traffic has been brisk. The international visitors have included Lithuanians, French, New Zealanders, Australians, Spaniards, British, and people from all over the Americas. All have left with smiles on their faces.

Had a nice visit in Carmel with some avid mural fans, who wanted to continue our conversation.

Happy Birthday this month to Don Cairns, the little boy in the lower center of the mural. He and his wife Kathé have been supporters of the mural for decades and first shared the precious work of his mother Emmy Lou Packard.

 

Mexican Independence Day commemorates September 16, 1810, when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (left) gave the “cry of independence” from Spain.  He and José María Morelos y Pavon (right) are featured in the mural. Recently, the US has returned stolen pre-Hispanic artefacts.

Abrazos,

Guillermo

June 2023



Photo: Mexican Consular Staff

Dear Friends of Diego,

It was a great honor to present the mural to Esteban Moctezuma Barragán, Ambassador of México to the United States of America. He and his wife came with local consular staff led by Consul General Remedios Gómez Arnau. The ambassador was in town for a gathering of past ambassadors, both from México and the US. Showing me his grandmother’s picture, he said that as a young woman she passed on an opportunity to sit for a portrait by Rivera, having heard of his bad reputation. However, past Ambassador Gerónimo Gutiérrez Fernández proudly showed me an image of the portrait Rivera painted of his evidently fearless grandmother. (Ambassador Moctezuma was recently in the news for his reply to Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy’s ‘vulgar and racist’ comments.)

The visitors were disturbed by the thought of the masterpiece going into storage, given its significant exposure at SFMOMA. Over the past 23 months there have been 260,000 visitors to the mural. The museum has been true to past SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra’s promise that the mural “would never be little known again.” In 2011 CCSF signed an MOU with the Mexican Consulate pledging cooperation in the stewardship of “a treasure of two countries,” a mural which can last centuries. México’s participation in the mural move will never be underestimated by those who worked on the project. UNAM’s number-crunching, computer modeling, and construction of a pair of full-size mural panel replicas, delivered the hard data guiding the handling of the precious art. No value can be placed on the Mexican team’s friendship, which graced the project.

The Mexican Consulate’s Cinco de Mayo celebration at SFMOMA’s Roberts Family Gallery was another opportunity to showcase the mural. We did a 15 minute presentation between the Mariachis and the Ballet Folklorico. Luckily, I was not asked to sing nor dance. The Consulate had previously graciously invited me to a dress rehearsal of SF Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet starring Mexican ballet dancer Isaac Hernández in a title role.

 

Local Reminder:

Our dear friend and long-time mural supporter, flautist Elena Durán will be performing MÉXICO DE MI CORAZÓN, Sunday, 18 June 2023 @ 6pm at the Brava Theater in San Francisco Mission’s Calle 24 Latino Cultural District. Elena is an East Oakland Chicana, who after teaching at Stanford went on to gain world-wide fame at the International Flute Festival at Stratford-on-Avon.  She is México City’s musical ambassador as La Flauta Que Canta. The program with Nicholas McGegan on piano will be accompanied with clips from the movies of the Golden Age of Mexican Movies. Diego and Frida, avid movie buffs, would have loved this, ensconced in a front row seat with a shot of tequila. (Use the code 20SF23 and get a 20% discount on the tickets!)

The exciting times continue locally with the much anticipated presentation of San Francisco Opera’s El último sueño de Frida y Diego . Bay Area composer Gabriela Lena Frank and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz will be coming to visit the mural as will delegations of other opera companies in town to see the five performances (plus Livestream), June 13-30. In a first for San Francisco Opera, the work is sung in Spanish with English and Spanish super-titles. The opera is set on Dia de los Muertos 1957 as Diego senses his imminent demise and wants to see Frida, who died three years before.

 

Recently it has occurred to me that, though Diego’s infidelities is perceived as the major stumbling block in the stormy relationship between the two Mexican artists, Frida’s homesickness is also a significant impediment. This observation might allow a more nuanced take on their relationship. Technically, there is no infidelity after their November 1939 divorce.  In a September 15, 1940 letter sent from San Francisco’s St. Luke’s Hospital, Frida wrote Anita Brenner in New York that Diego had asked to remarry her. She reminded Anita that in the long time both of them had known Diego, he had always been the same and he was not going to change. Frida admitted.Scratching deep in my very interiors I do not believe that there is much to fault Diego- but to my very difficult mode of being. Sentimental and young.” She decided to marry him again because they needed each other. For their remarriage Frida’s confidant, Dr. Leo Eloesser brokered the pre-nuptials. Intimate relations were not part of the deal. In papers my late Rivera partner Julia Bergman and I scoured in Canada in 2015, Diego confirmed that he and Frida were not conjugal after they remarried. Their re-marriage may have been spurned by the shock to their complacency after Trotsky’s assassination. Frida and her sister Cristina had been arrested for two days because the sisters had unwittingly had the assassin over for a meal at the Casa Azul, where the Trotsky’s initially lived after he got asylum in México in 1937. The police decided that since Frida was divorced from Diego and the daughter of a German, she wasn’t even Mexican. Diego was afraid she would revert to being a “German Jew” in a country still cordial with Germany. She was hastily naturalized a Mexican on August 26, 1940, and that afternoon applied for a visa to come to San Francisco. Of course, Frida wasn’t Jewish, it was a story she made up. Years before her father had been naturalized a Mexican citizen under the signature of Porfirio Diaz. As she suspected, the police were just messing with her.

 

Over the years, while abroad, Frida wrote dozens of letters home and asked to be remembered to a litany of family members, friends, and neighbors. (She used letters to her mother to create a cover for her first meeting with photographer Nick Muray.) Leaving México, Frida was homesick as soon as she reached the border. She was truly a lover of family. Diego was not as much of a family man. Wherever he landed, Rivera was lionized, and she was marginalized. Frida’s acerbic tone in talking about foreigners might just be an expression of her loneliness. Lucienne Bloch in her journal in April 1932 commented on how Frida had cried all night in reaction to Diego’s thought of going on to the USSR after spending an upcoming 5 months in Detroit, “…and F wants to go right home to Mexico, being torn between her family and R.” Emotionally, the time in Detroit would be troubling for Frida; she had a miscarriage and, accompanied by Lucienne, returned to México only to watch her mother die.

Alone in Paris in early 1939 she had bad things to say about Andre Breton, who was supposed to have organized her exhibition, but hadn’t even recovered her art from customs. Very significantly, she had nothing but good things to say about Marcel Duchamp and Mary Reynolds, who plucked her from a hospital and took her home with them. Duchamp went about getting a gallery and having her show mounted. She thought Duchamp was the only one in Paris who had his feet on the ground. Though Frida met Picasso and Josephine Baker, among others, Duchamp and Mary were the closest to being “family.”

 

VISITORS:

As the mural’s SFMOMA stay will end next March, I am treasuring all the thousands of people from all over the world who have come to savor the masterpiece. The mural has been a tremendous goodwill ambassador. Wish I spoke more languages. After its brief unveiling at the 1940 fair, Diego never saw the mural again. The mural reflected the seeming inevitability of a Nazi victory in Europe. But who knew that the British RAF would maintain air superiority over the Channel and dash Hitler’s plans to invade England. The head Nazi would then turn his eyes to invading Russia, not a good idea as Napoleon might have told him. Rivera never returned to triple the mural’s size per the contract he signed as he left the US for what turned out to be the last time. What might he have painted if he had returned? Having become a Stalinist, the Mexican painter might have created a battle that made the Rockefeller incident seem like a mere skirmish. Historical thresholds are often transparent as we pass through them. A door closed silently, and the mural was put into storage for 21 years. The mural’s impending storage is sobering.

Conducted a tour of Rivera’s Allegory of California (City Club) and the Pan American Unity mural for 25 Georgetown University alumni, among the thousands of Georgetown folk in town for a “John Carroll Weekend.” With the SFAI  mural inaccessible, I’m relegated to two-mural tours and have a couple this month.

Had a wonderful time with Santana drummer Karl Perazzo and his cousin, my friend Armando Alvarez, at the mural and at a fine Nicaraguan lunch afterwards.

Diver Helen Crlenkovich’s daughter Bari came by to visit again with a friend.

 

A family came by and when I commented on Diego’s model Nieves Orozco, for a short while in the queue to be Diego’s next wife, the son rolled up his sleeve. His tattoo is Nieves as Desnudo con Alcatraces (1944), part of SFMOMA’s “Diego Rivera’s America” exhibition. The synchronicity startled us both. Nieves told me in 2006 that she posed that way because she was pregnant with her first child.

 

In giving mural tours, the threads of the tapestry Diego has woven, never cease to amaze me. Spaniards’ Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s 1929 surrealist silent short film, Un Chien Andalou is probably the source of the image of the severed hand in lower Panel 4.  Rivera in his first foray into Hollywood in June 1940 had likely met Buñuel at one of several parties. An official of the Spanish Republican government, Buñuel was in Hollywood when Franco won. The filmmaker found temporary refuge working as an uncredited gag writer for Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. Diego referred to Buñuel without outing him to Stalinist assassins.

There are musical threads in our story. In lower Panel 5 the tattooed Sailor painting refers to composer Carlos Chavez’s symphonic ballet, H.P., for which Diego had created the sets and costumes. On a private railway car going to Philadelphia for its March 1932 premiere, Diego had met composers George Gershwin and Aaron Copland, Carlos Chavez’s buddy. Later Frida and Diego would have a soda with Gershwin after a NYC performance of music by composer Ernest Bloch (Lucienne Bloch’s father). In March 1937 George Gershwin met and fell for Paulette Goddard (lower Panels 3 & 4) at a Beverly Hills’s party art patron Edward G. Robinson (lower Panel 4) hosted for composer Igor Stravinsky. Gershwin related his 1935 México visit to her and suggested she go there to get her portrait painted by his friend Diego Rivera. She was woven into our story three years after Gershwin’s untimely death, while Diego and Frida were still divorced. However, she was the “other woman” to model Nieves Orozco, Diego’s fiancée. If Paulette hadn’t shown up, another outcome might have ensued. In a June 11, 1940, letter to Diego, Frida complained bitterly about how she was treated since they divorced,  “…..all of the other people treat me like their trash since I don’t have the honor to belong to the elite of the famous artists and above all because I’m not your woman.” This points to a possible alternative trajectory for Frida had she and Diego not remarried. All these threads need to be woven into the greater narrative to add color to the warp and the weft.

 

Becoming Frida, the 3-part BBC2 documentary is playing in the UK. Our friend, past CCSF Fulbright scholar Luis-Martin Lozano, a principal authority on Frida and the series consultant, wrote me that he thought I’d like it. However, our mural didn’t make the cut. Hopefully, that means that there’s lots of juicy information on Frida and our mural’s tangential Frida connection wasn’t enough. We await scheduling for US viewing.

 

SFAI filed for Chapter 7. A new SFAI Legacy Foundation + Archive (SFAI LF+A) has been created and the San Francisco Art Institute Archives have been relocated to the Crown Point Press building at 20 Hawthorne Street, very near SFMOMA. Hopefully, The Making of a Fresco, Showing The Building of a City will re-open, otherwise, too soon, all three Rivera murals may be publicly inaccessible.

 

Photo: courtesy of Vita Paramo

Our CCSF Olmec head, a gift of the Mexican state of Veracruz, has graced the Frida Garden since 2004. Recently, CCSF Counselor Vita Paramo had some classes convene there.

“I facilitated three closing ceremonies at the Olmec head for Amber Straus’ LERN 50 College success class…

I explained the history of Señor Olmec and the history of Olmec colossal heads. I shared that the Olmec’s believed that one’s spirit, emotions and intentions lie within your head, hence why they built colossal heads vs. bodies. We all stood in a circle holding our rosemary and we shared an intention, a goal, a dream we have for ourselves, our community, or another person and then we would plant our rosemary/intention around the Olmec head. It was beautiful to watch each student participate in their own way, some are non-verbal, some are just learning English, some are experiencing a lot of trauma, but they all found a way to show up as their true selves and plant their seed of intention.”

 

Abrazos,

Guillermo