FRIDA KAHLO: cultural icon, social justice champion

Photo courtesy of John Valls

There are many paintings by the Gran Artista that make me feel the depths of my own despair.  I can relate.  The painter who is by all standards a genius can make anyone feel an intended emotion, magically bridging worldviews and experiences to find common ground.

Even after undergraduate art history studies, a woman’s college education and many coffee house conversations on feminism in art, I could only imagine the suffering, pain, love, scorn, hopelessness, and defiance that Frida Kahlo spirited into her paintings. When I went to the cinema to see Julie Taymor’s critically acclaimed biopic, Frida, starring Salma Hayek, I began to understand.  By the time I was thirty-five, and had endured some pretty significant pain and loss, her work began to speak to me in a different voice. 

I have chosen to emulate Frida’s style for many of my professional events, from wearing brightly colored dresses to her signature flower crowns.  It wasn’t just to feel pretty, but to feel empowered.

I work in a male dominated business.  I often have to strike a balance between my masculine and feminine sides at work.  And, so did Frida.

Much of my life is centered around elaborate dinner parties.  Again, mostly through work.  I learned a bit about Frida’s elaborate dinner parties she used to call “dias de los manteles largos” or “days of the long tablecloths.”  She loved to entertain.  Frida, the film, presents examples of her comrades dining, dancing, singing and drinking.  Food was very important to Frida, and her grand-nieces published a cookbook based on Frida’s favorite recipes, most borrowed from the first wife of her husband, Diego Rivera.

I thought about recreating one of Frida’s dinner parties.  I thought about it some more.  In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so, I asked my friend, Julia Raymond, who oversees the Portland base camp for a multi-city culinary event promotion company, Feastly, to meet me for a cup of coffee.

Julia was on board immediately.  She invited me to a Feastly event showcasing a very special Mexican brunch.  There, she introduced me to Elizabeth Baena and Héctor Guerrero, chefs and owners of Chuparrosa Supper Club.

It was kismet.

This magical dinner would need a very special space.  We contacted Brigid, the owner of Cargo, Inc., a colorful, enchanting warehouse space filled with world goods.

Again, kismet.

Weeks unfolded as we created an evening filled with the kinds of artistry that would appropriately conjure the spirit of Frida.  Creative spirits came forward wanting to be a part of this magical endeavor, all donating their products and services, including Nectar Graphics, John & Theresa Valls photography, Mezcales de Leyenda, Nicky USA, mariachi singer-songwriter, Edna Vazquez.


Photos courtesy of Cargo, Inc.

The evening unfolded with nothing short of magic!  Guests were welcomed at Cargo with real golden-orange flowers sprinkled on the rustic wooden floors, as if a religious ceremony was about to take place, a table of complimentary ribbon-tied floral crowns, and stunning Frida inspired art and merchandise installations, including a photo shoot drop with hand-painted flowers modeled after the 1939 French Vogue Magazine cover photograph of Frida.

Frida Vogue 1938

Photo from French Vogue, “Frida on Bench” by Nickolas Muray, 1939.

There were stations with tastes to delight our guests, including my wine table where I poured my 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc; a lovely display of beautiful bites conjured up by Chuparrosa Supper Club; and a mini bar with luscious cocktails by Mezcales de Leyenda

All were enchanted by the powerful voice of Edna Vazquez.

Guests were escorted downstairs to a three course meal prepared by Chuparrosa Supper Club with wines paired by my business, Leah Jorgensen Cellars.

After the gorgeous meal, our very special guest, Leda Garside, was introduced to speak.  Leda is a veteran nurse with OHSU Tuality Healthcare and serves our community via ¡Salud!, an auction started by the Oregon Wine Industry to provide healthcare services and outreach to Oregon vineyard workers and their families.

Frida was a champion for social justice and many of her dinner parties were focused on politics and the people.  The heart of our Frida Kahlo birthday celebration was always centered on serving the local Mexican-American community, especially those underserved.  ¡Salud! was the obvious choice!  Leda spoke passionately about the important, noble work of this great cause.  A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales benefitted ¡Salud!

Frida dinnerPhoto courtesy of John Valls








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