Step beyond the threshold of a walled garden and discover Mexico in NYC…
Beneath the shadow of skyscrapers, an azure oasis hides from view. Step through the bold cobalt and tangerine gate, where spiny cacti mingle with tropical flowers, marled paintbrushes peek out from beyond palm fronds the size of your head, and the spirit of an artist can be felt in every nook, cranny and curve of the verdant, jungle-like thicket. As if on cue, the cacophony of city life — the cabs and trains, the people and cars — is replaced with the slow, lazy drone of industrious honeybees at the bud and the sound of trickling water emanating from a not-too-distant fountain. Leaves and grasses rustle in the soft breeze of late summer, the kind of breeze that hints at the cooler air to come in just a few short weeks. It’s Mexico in all its incredible, vibrant glory… smack dab in the middle of the Bronx.
Stepping over the threshold of the greenhouse, you feel her presence; even beyond death she’s all-seeing, a figure at once comforting and intimidating. The eyes of Frida Kahlo, confrontational, adversarial, void of fear and any hint of self-consciouness look out from behind stands of cacti and between the pots of paint that dot her workspace. This may not be the original Casa Azul, the artist’s former home in Covoacán, outside of Mexico City, but it holds the same spirit. It’s these eyes that initially ensnared me years…lifetimes ago. When I was young and crippled by my own insecurities — as an artist and human being — Frida was there; a beacon of power and autonomy. A revolutionary. To walk among the colors, sounds, and flora that infuse the work of a woman I’ve so long admired is reverential. Eventually I’ll make my way to Mexico, but for now I’ll travel without traveling, crossing the border with a train ride to the Bronx.
+ Visit Casa Azul at the New York Botanical Garden through November 1st.
Portraits and video by Christopher Sharp – follow along on Instagram