An intimate look at the life and art of the Mexican icon, with the help of Frida's own descendants
Frida Kahlo's work and life are on display in moving screenings for the West Coast premiere of Immersive Frida Kahlo at San Francisco's Lighthouse ArtSpace at SVN West. Photo Credit: Kyle Flubacker

Arturo Hilario
El Observador

After the success of the art installation Immersive Van Gogh from Lighthouse Immersive, the digital art compositions of the Italian artist and creator Massimiliano Siccardi and the composer Luca Longobardi have teamed up once again with the newest entry in the “Immersive” series, one that is ready to give viewers a whole new angle and interpretation of the legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

With Immersive Frida Kahlo, Lighthouse Immersive is exploring the world of the iconic artist (1907–1954), whose self-portraits and surreal paintings brought raw intimacy and emotion that continue to captivate and inspire beyond her lifetime.

Her style, her life and her stories are almost as famous as her captivating pieces and in this technological exhibition, projections of her art, her personal letters and family photos are mixed in a 360-degree presentation that covers the entire walls of the place. From floor to ceiling, in 500,000 cubic feet of images you can see the dazzling world of Frida’s life, beyond what she painted. From her partner Diego Rivera to her sister and parents, Immersive Frida Kahlo explores the person behind the icon, the intelligent and complex woman who created so much.

In the following interview I had the honor of speaking with the descendants of Frida Kahlo, her great-granddaughter Mara R. Kahlo, daughter of Frida’s only niece and president of the Kahlo Family Foundation and her daughter Mara De Anda.

To start off, I wanted to know how this idea came about and what did you initially think of this idea?

Mara De Anda

Well, look, a year ago Lighthouse knocked on the family door saying that they wanted to do an exhibition in the style of what they had already done of Van Gogh. We told them yes, but that it would be great not only to make it about Frida’s paintings, but to include Frida’s family life. So, well, in these final approaches we finally decided to do the immersive about her work and Frida’s three loves, right? So it is the family, her Mexico, Diego, and her pictorial work.

And speaking of Vincent Van Gogh, how did you feel or what did you think about Frida being the second artist they considered for this type of exhibition?

Mara R. Kahlo

Well, very proud to belong to the Kahlo family and above all, it is also a great responsibility to be part of the family, because we have to preserve everything that she left us, all the cultural heritage that we have and well [it is] very cool. We know that she is already a universal icon, but how cool that they have chosen Frida and I believe that also right now in these times of pandemic, because above all we need all Hispanics, all these roots, these traditions, to rescue all this.

And well, in this immersive, you see a part of that, because note that you see part of the Russian Revolution, you see part of the Mexican Revolution, of the history that Frida was living at that moment. Well, you better understand Frida, her political ideas, her love for the people, for her Mexico, in short, I think it’s very moving for me to see my family, Frida’s family on the walls, well, it´s very cool. In other words, the truth is that it is very exciting to see my “mother Isolda” my grandmother, Frida’s sister, on the walls. My aunts Matilde and Adriana.

It is a set of emotions within the immersive. Because not only do you see, but you hear the music, you feel Frida’s heart, [it’s] amazing. The truth is that it is very exciting and even more so being able to share it with Los Angeles, with all the cities that we have been to. Because I think it is important that through this immersion you get to know not only Frida the artist, but the human Frida, the one who laughed, the one who cried, the one who sang along with her guitar.

Mara de Anda wanted to ask you, since you haven’t met Frida, what is it like to walk through the corridors of this exhibition and see what she was like?

Mara De Anda

Well look, I think it’s a new Frida. This is a new Frida that we are trying to give or deliver to the world because you always want more from Frida, right?

This Frida that we are talking about, well, she is known to us, because of the letters, because of the family correspondence and even photographs that have small notes and such, no. I think that this bit of this new Frida that is not the suffering Frida, the one they cheated on, oh my, it is very exciting for everyone. I mean, not just for me. I particularly love it, of course, to see the family. I am proud of the roots.

I think it’s all about seeing Frida as a banner of gender equity, of strength, of – wow, I swear my head is spinning. There are many thoughts. It’s feeling proud, it’s identifying with the character, because of course, it’s modern. Today Frida would fit inside of us, inside the life we ​​live today. So I think that seeing that through these new technologies makes all your senses, sight, hearing, feeling, explode.

And you, being the protectors of Frida’s legacy, how did you work with the creators of Immersive Frida Kahlo to choose the pieces for the installation?

Mara De Anda

Look, creatively we let Massimiliano choose Frida’s art pieces. Rather, the family was more involved in choosing the family photographs that would accompany this exhibition that would make logical sense since they were the people who loved her the most. That my mom specifically chose some that not everyone knows or uses more unpublished ones, right? So from Frida as a child, we let the character evolve. Just like I’m telling you a story, well, she’s also evolving, but my mom helped along with Massimiliano to say, “I think that’s the right photo.”

Mara R. Kahlo

Because what we want, I tell you, is that they get to know this family life, my aunt Frida, right? In other words, that Frida that played, that laughed, and well, she and my grandmother were only 11 months apart, so, they were like accomplices who did everything together. So that’s what we want, that people, well, how can I tell you, that they know about Frida, because maybe you say “no, I don’t like paintings”, but you can like human beings, what she means, what it means to be a fighter, a rebel.

I made a comment that, for example, in 1939, just imagine, she got divorced from Diego and in 1940 she gets married and tells him “ok, I’m going to get married”. She gets married in San Francisco again, but she tells him “you’re not going to support me”, well imagine in 1939, women getting divorced and also if they remarried they wouldn’t support them. So, how cool? Because if you can identify with this part of Frida, like today’s woman, who gets divorced and then remarries.

How great that you can identify with someone who tells you “you can and you can do it on your own and you don’t need anyone”. So it´s awesome to get to know this other story of Frida, this addition to Frida.

Of course, thank you.  And I wanted to know, how did your Kahlo Family Foundation connect with this exhibit, how did you work with Lighthouse Immersive to further Frida Kahlo’s causes, and what do you continue to do with that foundation?

Mara R. Kahlo

Well, I want to tell you that this begins with my aunt Frida and my grandmother Cristina, that in this house, the red house opened its gates every Saturday and gave more than 500 single women a basic pantry: that means, a kilo of rice, a kilo of beans, a kilo of sugar. And precisely we want to continue with all of this, with social work. And it is what we have done, that all the licenses that we give or the people who reach out if they have to do something that matches this feeling that had them like that.

Thank you Mara R. and Mara De Anda, I finally wanted to know what do you hope people take away from this experience when they go to see Immersive Frida Kahlo?

Mara De Anda

Look, we would love for people to find and identify with Aunt Frida in the sense of “yes, we can”, and for everyone to find their inner Frida. I believe that despite everything we have experienced and what is happening in the world with the war, with the pandemic, that we learn that one, each one within everything that one experiences, we have a Frida that we carry inside.

Mara R. Kahlo

You know that you have a rebel inside that makes you feel like yes you can.

Immersive Frida Kahlo is now open in San Francisco through June 11, 2022. More information and tickets can be found at

Arts & CultureFeatured