Art Librarianship: A Beginner’s Guide

As the title of my blog suggests, my dream job is to be an art or museum librarian. I work at the School of Art at my university but don’t hold a library position and my library school does not have an art or archives focus, so I have to try a little harder to get the knowledge I need to be successful. I spent some time today cultivating my career, i.e. spending time working on the bigger picture, and wanted to share my small accomplishments and a beginner’s guide to navigating art librarianship.

I found Annie Pho’s blog post about art librarianship over at Hack Library School to be very informative and a great starting point! Check it out here. As the comments suggest, it is usually crucial to have an advanced degree in Art History to be competitive as an art librarian. I do plan to apply for jobs after my MLIS (a fellowship would be awesome!) but I’m also researching potential programs for a MA in Art History (currently considering University of Washington, Georgetown, Penn State, or Tufts depending on where we move).

The comments on the post also directed me to the ArLis/NA guide to library science programs in the United States for fine arts and visual resources librarianship. I didn’t expect my school to make the list, but it turns out this is a guide that discusses the offerings for fine arts and visual resources librarianship by each LIS school in the country. It lists specific courses my school offers that have a connection to this branch of librarianship. And, hallelujah!, it includes some courses I’ve already planned to take that are being offered next year: Digital Libraries, Humanities Information Services,  Archival Theory and Issues, and Advanced Cataloging (now MLIS 7330, Metadata and Advanced Cataloging, which requires Descriptive Cataloging as a pre-req). The rest of the courses listed are on the History of the Book or Rare Books Librarianship, which sound interesting, but I think cataloging courses are more practical and beneficial for me.

I became a member of ArLis/NA and the Southeastern Registrars Association today. ArLis/NA is THE organization for art librarians and I figured it was time to join. I picked SERA because I am very interested in museum registration/collections management as well as librarianship. I am taking Preservation this semester and have chosen the works on paper collection at the Georgia Museum of Art as my adopted “library” for the course. I am working with the Head Registrar to develop a preservation plan and disaster prevention plan. In fact, I already benefited from my member’s discount since I purchased the two texts sold by the association: Steal This Handbook! A Template for Creating a Museum’s Emergency Preparedness Plan and Basic Condition Reporting: A Handbook, available here. Both will come in handy for my projects this semester as well as in the future!

I also signed up for webinars in VRA Core and PBCore, metadata schemas important in art and visual resources librarianship but not taught at my school. The webinars do cost money, but I think it’s worth the investment. VRA Core is used for visual resources and PBCore is used for audiovisual materials. In fact, a paraprofessional position in the audiovisual archives was recently posted at my university and required knowledge of PB Core. I wasn’t qualified but hope to prevent that issue in the future!

I also ordered a few standard texts for self-study! Museum Registration Methods, 5th ed. is the “bible” for museum registration. Art Museum Libraries and Librarianship is the informative guide to the field and published by ArLis/NA. Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage: A Critical Discourse was recommended by Annie and was inexpensive so I decided to go for it! I plan to do a review of each one.

Now that I have spent some time thinking about my end goal, it’s time to wrap up my self-assessment for my preservation class. Until next time!

Collection Development Internship: Part Three

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I just finished the first of two academic library guides for Asian art we are using to compare and contrast the works in our collection. The first guide is the Harvard East Asian Art Guide. We chose this guide because it specifically focuses on East Asian art and offers a general outline of major works in that area. The guide has a short list of general East Asian art works and then breaks down into geographic categories (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) and corresponding subfields.

The guide links to the Harvard catalog but it also includes the ISBN number for easy reference. I copied and pasted the ISBN into WorldCat to see if our library owns the item. ISBNs are very accurate and a great way to search for items in WorldCat. I did a project for my cataloging course this summer comparing different search methods and databases and ISBNs were by far the most accurate way to search. Of course, it can be a pain typing up those numbers and it’s not always the most convenient, so I appreciate that the Harvard lib guide included the ISBN. I recommend clicking on all editions that your search brings up. Sometimes the international holdings are separate and it’s fun to see where each item is held. The reason we are using WorldCat is 1) because it’s the quickest way to see if our library owns the item and 2) if we do not own it, it helps to know how many other institutions own the item so we can determine if it’s worthwhile to add it to our collection. If the only libraries in the U.S. that own the item are Harvard, Yale, and the LOC, well… it’s probably not going to make the cut. If the same libraries keep coming up over and over again, it’s likely that they have strength in that particular subject which is also useful information.

I recorded all works we do not own into my Excel spreadsheet. I categorized them as “Harvard East Asian Art – Chinese” and so forth. We are definitely lacking in this area and I found several books that other, smaller universities in our state own or even local libraries and technical colleges own but we do not. Hopefully this will be helpful to the collection development librarian and we can work on boosting our Asian art collection.

Next, I am going to compare and contrast the works in the Boston Asian Art and Archaeology Guide to our library’s collection. Stay tuned!

Introduction to New Librarianship: Week One

I’m taking the New Librarianship Master Class MOOC through Syracuse University. It’s taught by R. David Lankes, author of The Atlas of New Librarianship. This week we discussed the introduction to the topic of new librarianship and the mission of libraries. I’m going to blog my notes as a way to share my thoughts and reflect on what I’ve learned.

Lankes asked librarians and libraries to explain what trends they have seen recently and found a common answer: they emphasized a shift from a focus on collections to a focus on communities. Ironically, they don’t seem to recognize this trend in libraries across the board (i.e., public libraries and academic libraries aren’t communicating with one another about changes and the future). Libraries are becoming knowledge bases and learning spaces in their communities and improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities. This was an interesting concept for me because I tend to focus on collections due to my interest in libraries. Of course, collections are there for users, and users make up the library community. Ultimately, the library is focused on serving the community.

The mission of libraries according to Lankes is to focus on the library for that community for that day. I loved this idea because it’s true that libraries don’t necessarily fit into one-size-fits-all box. One library might be ready to invest in iPads and 3D printers, whereas another finds that their patrons are still focused on checking out books. Lankes phrased it well: some patrons want that “quiet book place”, whereas others want information centers. The mission of the library for a particular community should be decided by the citizens, government, scholars, and, last but not least, the librarians.

This was a really informative week! The sessions are awesome because Lankes records himself talking and uses slides to demonstrate points. I typically have the video playing in the background at work and occasionally click over when something catches my attention.

Are you in the course? What are your thoughts on Week One?

Collection Development Internship: Part Two

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It’s been over two months since I last posted and I owe an update on my collection development internship! In case you missed part one, you can catch up here.

I am assisting the art bibliographer in an assessment of our university library’s Asian art collection. She is relatively new in her position and the Asian art collection has suffered because Art History did not have an Asian art expert for some time so she plans to remedy that. The first step was to browse the dissertation of the Asian art faculty member (it is dated to 2009 so he is a relatively recent graduate). I am still working on that but hope to finish soon. This project is time consuming since I’m doing it in addition to working full time and going to school but it’s been a great learning experience!

The Asian art professor is not tenured and he specializes in a very specific small branch of Asian art. He mentioned that our collection was lacking in more general works and that should be the focus of building the collection back up. If he becomes tenured and remains at the university, the library will likely use funds to purchase items in his specialty. I focused on more general works and journals when browsing the citations in his dissertation and searched for these in WorldCat. The librarian recommended WorldCat over our library’s catalog because you can instantly see who owns the item in question. If our library owns it, we are generally at the top. If we don’t own it, then I can see the list of other libraries that do. This is useful information because if only four libraries worldwide own the item (and, for example, they are all in Germany), it’s probably not worth the funds to purchase the item. But if several research libraries with similar collections to our own have the item, then it may be worthwhile to add it to our collection. I store the information in a Google document.

The Google doc is convenient because both the art bibliographer and I can see it and make changes if needed. I have divided it into two pages: books and journals. For books, this is the information I keep about the item (note: I am only recording items we DO NOT own): Brief Title, Author Last Name, Edition, ISBN/ISSN, and LC Class. For journals, I organize the document this way: Journal Title, Held at University, and Bibliography. “Held at University” is usually a yes or no but is useful because sometimes we have a few issues of a journal that were donated but we don’t have a regular subscription – in those instances, I put what we do own (example: Only v. 39, no. 1/2 (1963). “Bibliography” states where the item was found. The dissertation is just the first resource we are using so there will be lots of sources added to the doc!

The next step (once I finish the dissertation!) is to browse library guides from other institutions. There are several out there – some are very specific (Chinese, Japanese, etc.) but since our Asian art collection overall is fairly weak, we wanted to use more general Asian art guides. We’ve selected Harvard’s East Asian Art lib guide and Boston’s Asian Art and Archaeology guide. I will be back with another update once that is done!

The Athens Little Free Library

I live in Athens, GA, which is home to one of the poorest counties in the state of Georgia. It’s a college town and many of the residents have some connection to the university whether they are faculty, staff, or students. We have a huge income gap, partly because of the low salaries paid by the university, but also because many of the people who live in Athens (i.e. students) are not permanent residents.

Team Sprocket of the LEAD Athens effort committed to design and implement a community service project over the course of a year. The team found out that Georgia ranked third in the nation for high school dropouts and 60% of low-income families in Athens did not own reading material in their homes (according to the Athens-Banner Herald here). The team did some research and discovered the Little Free Library movement. The placement of Little Free Libraries throughout the town provides easy access to books without needing to commute to the library or use a library card.

I think this is a great way to spread literacy and strengthen the Athens community. The Athens-Clarke County Library just went through a major renovation and made many improvements. I hope that Athenians will use the Little Free Library as a way to circulate their own collection and spread the joy of reading to others. I also hope that those who have previously avoided visiting the library will be inspired to make library visits a part of their regular routine. The construction and decoration of the libraries would make a great project for local artists. We have a series of painted bulldog statues planted throughout town. I can definitely see the libraries becoming landmarks on the Athenian landscape. This Athens-Banner Herald article discusses other ways the community can get involved in the design of the libraries.

If you live in Athens or plan to visit, you can find the Little Free Libraries in these locations: 493 Prince Ave.; First American Bank & Trust, 330 College Ave.; Mint Salon, 1694 S. Lumpkin St.; and Jittery Joe’s at both its 1860 Barnett Shoals and 1480 Baxter St. locations.

Does your community have a Little Free Library? What do you think of the idea?

10 Ways Waking up Earlier Will Help You Become a Successful LIS Professional on INALJ!

My latest article, 10 Ways Waking up Earlier Will Help You Become a Successful LIS Professional, is live on I Need a Library Job. I was inspired by the Early to Rise Challenge and the time management books I’ve devoured the past year or two. I have been doing well with the Early to Rise Challenge although blogging about it everyday isn’t my style. I personally prefer to workout first thing in the morning because it gives me energy for the day, but I really think it’s an ideal time to work on one’s career. I’ve mentioned before that I love working on a career and not just going through the motions of preparing for a future job. There are so many opportunities for library school students that it can be overwhelming. I think setting aside an hour each day, preferably in the morning when you generally have uninterrupted time, is a great strategy for working on your career. Head over to the INALJ site and check out my ten suggestions for utilizing your morning hour to become a successful LIS professional (or library school student in my case)!

Collection Development Internship: Part One

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My first assignment for my foundations class was to tour a library and interview a librarian. I naturally chose a librarian who had a MA in Art History in addition to the MLIS. She was really informative and helpful and suggested another librarian on campus who could probably use my help. I waited a few weeks and finally made the contact. I contacted the art bibliographer on campus who had just assumed the position and really needed help assessing the strengths and weaknesses of our university library’s art collection. I would be able to perform the majority of the work on my own time from home or in the evenings or weekends. Thus, the perfect internship for my ability and my interests was born. I plan to set aside about five hours per week until the end of the year. I plan to enroll in Collection Development at my school this fall so this internship will be the perfect project. I’m excited to get started!

Last week was my first week and it was rather uneventful. Since I’m a full time employee at the university, they have to get special permission and approval from HR. Everything looks good and the paperwork should be finalized soon. We decided to begin with the Asian art collection in the library. Why? Well, it starts with A for one, but it has been neglected because for a while there was no Asian art expert on campus. The School of Art has since employed an Asian art specialist, however, so it’s a good time to re-assess the collection and direct funds to strengthening it. You see, faculty play a strong role in a library’s collections. If there is no one to use the books and resources in a special area, then there probably isn’t a good reason to use precious and limited library funds on building a particular collection. Even if a research library is committed to maintaining a rarely used collection and has the funds to do so, things can slip through the cracks when faculty are not around to request new publishings and resources.

The librarian who will be supervising and overseeing my internship asked me to come up with a list of goals I hoped to accomplish during the next nine months or so. I found this post on Hack Library School about what one does in a historical collection evaluation to be invaluable. The first place we plan to start is by cross-examining the citations on the Asian art faculty member’s dissertation. I had to ILL the dissertation because our university does not own it and it was unavailable online. So that’s why this week was uneventful. :) After we comb through the dissertation, we plan to move on to his publications. We contacted the professor and let him know that we are going to extensively assess the Asian art collection and compare it to his work and research interests so that he has the opportunity to provide feedback and his own evaluation of the collection. Here are the other tasks I plan to tackle during this internship:

1. Research LCC subject headings, beginning with Asian art
2. Compare Dr. X’s (not revealed due to privacy), the Asian art specialist, citations and research to what we own in our collection
3. Assess the collections of other schools with PhD art programs who have an Asian art specialist
4. Research best practices for collection development of art history and fine arts materials
5. Establish evaluation criteria
6. Document evaluation in spreadsheets
7. Flag titles for preservation
8. Write bibliographies for ancient art titles (A special task for the ancient art collection since that’s my background and research interest)
9. Research and implement practical ways of increasing patron access to the art collections (office hour in the School of Art, lib guides, Twitter, webpages, etc. ?)


I don’t know if I will have weekly updates for my internship, but I do plan to blog about the process for anyone who is interested in collection development and a similar internship! I encourage you to approach the collection development department in your library and ask if they need help. Librarians are eager to recruit library students for free labor and in return you can get great experience. It’s a win-win situation!

The Early to Rise Challenge

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Hi everyone! I’m sorry I’ve been MIA the past week. I’ve been very busy but I’ve also been feeling very sluggish and unmotivated. I hate admitting that but it’s true. I consider this a professional blog, where I post about my interest and blossoming career in art, libraries, and museums, so I don’t plan to post much about my personal life. But I have taken on quite a lot – full time job, part time school, two volunteer gigs, and an internship (yes – I haven’t posted about this yet!) – and it’s easy to feel burn out. At the end of the day, something’s gotta give and lately that has been reading and working out. I need to make a change. I want to give my all and do my absolute best and I firmly believe that making certain lifestyle changes can have an amazing impact on your career and well being. I’m really inspired by the morning routines of the successful people featured in What Successful People Do Before Breakfast. This book discusses how waking up early allows you to nurture your career, yourself, and your family all before eating breakfast. I really need to add a burst of energy to my day so I can arrive to work feeling refreshed and ready to tackle on the day’s tasks. Therefore, I’m going to commit to waking up early. I’ve been casually following the Early to Rise Challenge from Money Saving Mom.

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What’s the Early to Rise Challenge, you ask? It’s based off a recently released e-book called  Early to Rise: Learn to Rise Early in 30 Days. I recommend getting the book for guidance and motivation. So, to participate, here is what you need to do:

1. Commit to a time you plan to wake up each morning. I am going to commit to 6 AM. I normally do not rise until 7 AM so that will add an extra hour to my morning.
2. Read the daily passage from Early to Rise and Money Saving Mom’s post. Crystal Paine is a super woman and a very inspiring writer.
3. Utilize social media! You can follow the hashtag #EarlytoRiseChallenge or post to the Pinterest board.

Good luck everyone! I know I’m going to need it! ;)

Here are some things you can expect to see on Future Art Librarian in the near future:
1. A recap of my trip to the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, South Carolina with highlights from the permanent collection
2. The first week of my internship in collection development
3. Art History 101: Introduction to Greek Art
4. February’s Classics Club Challenge results

The Library at Alexandria on INALJ!

Hi everyone! This week blog posts launched at I Need a Library Job and I was lucky enough to have my post on the Library at Alexandria featured today! Check it out here.

One of our tasks as Head Editors for I Need a Library Job is to write blog posts on some aspect of librarianship once per month. Since I am new to library and information science and in my first semester of library school, I was at a loss about what I could possibly contribute. I decided to combine my background in classics and archaeology with libraries and came up with a brief article about the Library at Alexandria. I actually specialized in the Hellenistic period and did my best to come up with an article that would appeal to librarians. Depending on reception of this post, I may continue the theme with short articles featuring some of the amazing libraries in the history of the world. I hope you like it!

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Undated Illustration of Patrons in the Library at Alexandria

Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting

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Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting is the largest exhibition combining the works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and celebrates their mutual romantic love and passion for Mexican culture. The exhibit has been featured in Mexico and Canada and recently debuted at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the final and only U.S. stop on the tour. I’ve been fortunate to see the exhibition twice so far since it opened on February 14, 2013.

The first time was last weekend when I briefly visited the museum with my mother who was visiting from Florida. We walked around the galleries but didn’t stay very long because we were both starving and the museum cafe was closed. That was fine because I knew I would return the following week and I’m so glad I did because it was an amazing visit.

Yesterday I took the day off work because the Georgia Museum of Art docents had planned an exciting trip to the High Museum of Art. We were greeted by some of the High’s docents who had a lovely spread of coffee and pastries prepared for us. We broke out into groups for tours: one group went to see the Thornton Dial exhibit and the other had a tour of the permanent collection. I opted for the permanent collection because, although I’m very familiar with the permanent collection and had seen it numerous times, I’d never been on a formal tour. After the tours, we learned more about the docent program at the High and had an introduction to the Frida and Diego exhibit.

The High Museum of Art was so kind to let us use the audio guides as part of our experience. The audio guides, which were basically iPods with accompanying visual features, are amazing and so worth it to get the full experience. They had an adult tour and a kid’s tour which often featured different works. I used the kid’s tour guide a few times and it was great! I especially loved that the audio guides were interactive – you could click on highlighted areas of the work for close-ups and extra information. The guide would sometimes tell you to look down at the screen to view a photograph, comparable work, or even a video (such as a tour of Frida’s home). I wasn’t able to find the audio guide as a podcast or app anywhere, unfortunately, but if I do I will definitely let you know! Another wonderful feature was that all the text in the exhibition – the description of the paintings and quotes – were in both English and Spanish.

The exhibition began with a wall of portraits of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. They aren’t very flattering, but that’s part of their charm. They embraced their physical flaws, with Frida affectionately calling Diego her “toad-frog” and Diego describing her characteristic unibrow as similar to raven wings. A nearby wall had a striking black and white photograph of Diego and Frida embracing which was fun to compare to the portraits.

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Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Necklace, 1933

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Frida Kahlo’s Portrait of Diego Rivera, 1937

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A photo of Frida and Diego

The next two galleries highlighted Diego’s early works and education as an artist. Diego was a classically-trained artist who embarked upon the Grand Tour, the traditional education of artists who toured Europe for inspiration. He painted bullfighters in Spain and experimented with Cubism after meeting Picasso. He also explored post-Impressionism. But Diego found these artistic styles unfulfilling and detached from reality. He returned to Mexico and created his own unique style that celebrated Mexican culture. These paintings often featured calla lilies and ambiguous Mexican people – he didn’t paint particular individuals, but rather intended to celebrate the indigenous Mexican people as a whole. Diego also painted large-scale political murals. The exhibit featured two of the murals (reproduced on the wall) – one featuring the Mexican revolution and the other commissioned by the Rockefellers. The latter was actually destroyed because Rockefeller didn’t like his own depiction but Diego later re-painted it in another location.

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Diego Rivera’s Young Man with a Fountain Pen, 1914

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Diego Rivera’s Flower Day, 1925

Frida, on the other hand, was entirely self-made as an artist. She survived a horrible crash early in life that impaled her spine and often left her bed-ridden. Her father gave her paints to occupy her time and she was inspired to create self-portraits due to the mirror that hung above her bed. She also studied books about the history of art. She created portraits for friends and Picasso told Diego that “no one could paint a face like Frida.”

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Frida Kahlo’s Portrait of Alicia Galant

The exhibition featured two rooms celebrating the colors of Frida: red and yellow. To be honest, even with the High docent’s description of the purpose of these rooms beforehand, I didn’t quite get this feature and I know other patrons were confused. The red room was entirely red and had a bed and the yellow room was entirely yellow with stacks of chairs. You could touch and sit on the chairs and bed, though, which was probably fun for kids.

One gallery featured the dark works of Frida. Diego was a ladies man (hard to believe based on his appearance but he must have had a captivating personality!) and had numerous affairs. Frida was aware of this and had a few affairs herself, but the ultimate betrayal came when Diego was caught in bed with her sister. They actually divorced but re-married a year later. Frida and Diego desperately wanted children but Frida suffered a miscarriage. It’s interesting that she always signed her works Frida Kahlo except the miscarriage paintings where she used the name Frida Rivera. Her body, with all its physical ailments, was never able to live up to her expectations. The works in this part of the exhibit highlighted her struggles and pain during this time. I was particularly struck by one work that featured a mutilated woman’s body. A man was convicted of killing his girlfriend and stabbed her body over and over again. When asked why he did it, he said he just gave her “a few small nips.” She painted a banner with the phrase “a few small nips” over the body. Frida carried the bloody affair over to the frame where she stabbed the wood several times with a knife and sprayed red paint on it. You can imagine her frustration and despair over Diego’s betrayal as she created this work.

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Frida Kahlo’s A Few Small Nips

There was a gallery dedicated to Diego’s work after the death of Frida. These included a few examples of his sunset paintings which he usually painted and finished in one day. It also featured the last work he ever signed: a series of watermelons. Diego was asked by his long time friend and caretaker during his battle with cancer to paint watermelons. He refused at first, citing that he didn’t paint watermelons, but when told she would find someone else, he agreed to paint the watermelons. It is especially fitting because Frida’s last painting (not displayed in this exhibition) featured watermelons with the phrase “Long Live Life.”

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Diego Rivera’s Watermelons

The exhibit continued with a comparison between Frida and Diego and their portrait styles. They both painted their friend Natasha Gelman but in very different ways. Personally, I preferred Frida’s style and her depiction of Natasha was so elegant and glamorous. There was a wall of Frida portraits, including those with her pet monkeys and dog. Perhaps the most telling portrait was that of Frida with a broken Greek ionic column as a spine.

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Diego Rivera’s Portrait of Natasha Gelman

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Frida Kahlo’s Portrait of Natasha Gelman

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Frida Kahlo’s The Broken Column, 1944

The exhibition concluded with two walls of photographs. After several galleries of portraits, it was refreshing and fun to see actual photographs and note the very different physical appearances (as in different from one another) of Frida and Diego. The photographs also showed Frida and Diego in action at political rallies. The final paintings by Frida featured her and Diego and showed her love and devotion to her husband despite their tumultuous marriage and shortcomings.

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Frida Kahlo’s Self Portrait as a Tehuana (traditional Mexican dress)

I immensely enjoyed a second and more thorough look at Frida and Diego and it strengthened my love for art history. Frida’s work in particular is characterized by themes and meaning that are not obvious at first glance. Art history is so important because it tells the background and importance of the artist, time period, culture, etc. Context is everything and crucial to fully appreciate art.

I highly recommend Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting to anyone who is able to visit the High Museum before it ends on May 12.

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