A Q&A With Joe McGee About the Exhibition “En el Espiritu de Frida,” plus Five Art Events That You Shouldn’t Miss

Frida Kahlo is an artist celebrated around the world. Louisville is doing its part with the exhibition “En el Espiritu de Frida” at Swanson Contemporary through Saturday, Jan. 3. This tribute to Kahlo is the brainchild of curator/artist Joe McGee and gallery owner Chuck Swanson. LEO spoke with McGee to find out more about this Kahlo lovefest.

LEO: How did this exhibition about Frida Kahlo come about? Chuck told me he visited your studio, saw your Frida work and mentioned he knew Diane Kahlo, Frida’s distant cousin.

Joe McGee: Yeah, I had enough Frida stuff for a solo show, but liked Chuck’s idea to expand the exhibit. I looked Diane up online and really liked her work, contacted her and to my surprise she agreed to participate in a show honoring Frida … You know, when I found out Chuck was born on July 13, the day Frida died, that is when I knew this show was going to be cool!

LEO: Beside Diane Kahlo and yourself, the artists in the exhibition are Pilar Acevedo, Mari Mujica and Jacque Parsley. Tell me how they got involved.

JM: Diane suggested fellow Frida fan Mari Mujica, whom Diane had shown with before, join in as well. I actually found the work of Pilar Acevedo on LinkedIn, of all places … Told Chuck we needed one more as I did not like the number four. He immediately suggested Jacque Parsley.

The large round work [of Frida] by Diane is cool, isn’t it? Just very powerful. [It] looks great from outside the gallery … I also like Mari’s tea bag sculptural work so much in the center of the gallery; people are drawn to it so, especially children. I also like the work by Jacque — her small, intense collages are like jewels. I’m glad Chuck reminded me that Jacque is also a big Frida fan.

Pilar’s mixed-media drawings are very richly drawn and control the wall where they hang. We’re really grateful for her participation in the exhibit … she liked the artists who were already involved and besides, it was “to honor our Frida.”

LEO: The exhibition had a number of extras, including a blog (enelespiritudefrida.weebly.com). How did these come about?

JM: The blog that Pilar made for the exhibit … is awesome; how lucky to have her art and her web design capability. I was especially pleased to involve U of L in the exhibit. It was a hoot to go back on campus with Mari and Jacque in September as we met Dr. Clare Sullivan’s advanced Spanish class to present the translation project — a lot of work! And Dr. Christopher Fulton, besides writing his essay for the exhibit, he also agreed to have one of his art history classes construct an ofrenda to Frida in one of the gallery front windows. I am using the other.

LEO: Has this exhibition been the dream-come-true you hoped it would be?

JM: The two openings so far went great, such diverse crowds. Look at our blog … for pics I took. My favorite pic is at the second opening when Mari and Diane see each other for the first time, as they had promised to each come as Frida. So yeah, what a fun rewarding project at Chuck’s place!

Five Openings And Exhibitions That You Shouldn’t Miss

1. “The New Art of the Loom: Contemporary International Tapestry” and “Looming Local: Contemporary Kentucky Tapestry,” both at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft through Jan. 25.

2. “Ashley Brossart: Terminating Vistas, The Sequence Series & The Original Louisville Neighborhood Series” at CRAFT(s), Jan. 2-Feb. 2. The artist reception is Friday, Jan. 2 from 6-10 p.m.

3. “Double Vision” at PYRO Gallery, Jan. 2-Feb. 15. The opening reception is Friday, Jan. 9 from 6-9 p.m.

4. “Size Matters” by Carlos Gamez de Francisco at the Green Building Gallery through Jan. 30

5. First Friday Trolley Hop on Jan. 2