On July 6, amidst heavy First Friday traffic along Santa Fe Drive, Colorado artist Armando Silva was hard at work painting a large portrait of Frida Kahlo inside Museo de las Americas for all to see. It was a celebration of Kahlo’s 111th birthday, an exhibition titled “Life Con Frida.”
The mural, which Silva said is meant to capture a “feeling” beyond the artist’s literal depiction, is set to be painted over this weekend. Friday is the last day to catch some of Silva’s vibe before it’s gone.
“This is the first time in many years that we’ve done an in-house mural like this,” said Alexis Newton, education director at Museo. The wall is being cleared for a new exhibit set to open in September.
Silva said he’s fine with creating artwork that’s temporary in nature.
“A lot of the times I create just for the experience of it,” he said. Live painting is part of his canon, and he’s done it at all kinds of events, though often on smaller canvasses.
“I got to treat myself with the wall,” he said.
Painting Kahlo, though, was a task that he didn’t take lightly.
“Her portrait has become such a pop-culture subject, and I tread softly with a lot of that stuff,” he said.
Instead of duplicating a ubiquitous portrait, Silva tried to add nuance and symbols within the work to “try to capture the spirit that was Frida,” and also beckon viewers to look deeper into the work and Kahlo’s past.
Museo’s mission is “educating our community through collecting, preserving, and exhibiting the arts and cultures of Latinidad in the Americas,” according to their website.
Silva, who is from Mexico but now lives in Greeley, said he’s happy to work with an institution that promotes this heritage. But, more than that, he sees the role of his artwork, in context with the Museo, as one of pressing forward. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions, and about giving back.
“It’s not just about paying homage to those that have paved the way,” he said, “but doing our due diligence to bring something new to the table.”