Conservatory: A Look Inside 40 at 40

Miriam Shapiro (American, b. Canada, 1923-2015); Conservatory (Portrait of Frida Kahlo), 1988; Acrylic and fabric collage on canvas; Art Museum Purchase through the Helen Kingseed Art Acquisition Fund and the Commemorative Acquisition Fund; 1990.113
Miriam Schapiro (American, b. Canada, 1923-2015). Conservatory (Portrait of Frida Kahlo), 1988. Acrylic and fabric collage on canvas. Miami University Art Museum Purchase through the Helen Kingseed Art Acquisition Fund and the Commemorative Acquisition Fund. 1990.113

In honor of International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8, this post highlights two incredible female artists: Miriam Schapiro and Frida Kahlo. Miriam Schapiro (American, b. Canada, 1923-2015), the artist behind the breathtaking Conservatory (which is on view in 40 at 40: Celebrating 40 Years), is as a pioneer of feminist art, She commonly depicts key female artists who have been dismissed or forgotten about throughout history. Throughout her career, Schapiro worked with a variety of mediums to create larger than life works emphasizing the importance and beauty of women, incorporating crafting materials, floral prints, and other themes symbolic to womanhood.

Schapiro continued to create grand works stressing the importance women have on the world as well as emphasizing their worth and talents. During her career, Schapiro created a series of works each celebrating an individual female artist forgotten in history. In Conservatory, Schapiro creates a collage portrait of Frida Kahlo incorporating paint, fabric, lace, stencil, and other materials. Frida Kahlo was, and still is, a renowned Mexican artist who drew on her own hardships and traumas to create incredibly complex and unique works. Throughout her career, Kahlo created numerous self-portraits that included a variety of nature and artifacts from her native Mexican culture.

By recalling a number of Frida Kahlo’s own self-portraits, Schapiro placed her portrait into the persona of a queen, surrounding her with different key emblems found throughout Kahlo’s paintings like Mexican nature and artifacts. In doing this, Schapiro directly pulls from Frida Kahlo’s style while also integrating her own use of collage. In addition, Schapiro creates a new portrait of Kahlo, celebrating her culture and identity as a female artist. Between Miriam Schapiro and Frida Kahlo, this work exemplifies feminism and female empowerment, bringing together the incredible talents of both women to reach a larger audience and impact an entire generation of women.