The Making Of…Tourist Attraction, Kahlo, Little Deer

This particular piece is at the forefront of my mind as I’ve just submitted it to an Art From Art call where the criteria is artwork that has been inspired by existing works of art created by other artists. I thought it would be fun to share the back story on this older but seminal piece of mine.

Tourist Attraction, Kahlo, Little Deer (1946) is the result of a mental mash-up of a vintage family vacation photo and one of my all time favourite Frida Kahlo paintings, Little Deer, painted in 1946.

Frida Kahlo's Little Deer

Frida Kahlo’s Little Deer, oil on masonite, 9″ x 12″, 1946.

I am deeply inspired by Kahlo’s narrative work, and telling a story through my own work has always been important to me.

The family photo I gleaned from was taken at a Southwestern Ontario campground, two families on a camping trip wearing identical t-shirts:

tshirt family cbalanced

The photo is a piece of absurd personal history. I knew I had to create a grouping of figures all sporting identical t-shirts!

Kahlo’s original painting is an intimate scale – only 9 x 12″.  I chose to enlarge and explode her image into a 3-dimensional diorama, transforming Kahlo’s psychological state into a physical state, and inserted two families of vacationing deer, captured and posed in a Kodak moment.

My initial idea was to have a shelf in front of a painted backdrop of forest with the deer figures standing in front, as if ready have their portrait taken in a photography studio (the pun of being “shot” by a camera was the initial inspiration, coupled by the genuine vs artificial theme – a common thread that runs through the entire Will The Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up? series).

The painted backdrop was to reference the forest in Kahlo’s Little Deer painting, minus her little deer figure.

Sketchbook musings for Tourist Attraction…

Somewhere along the way, the concept of “vacation” and “destination” gained more importance and I started thinking about tourist destinations, often manufactured geography – places where people might visit, take a souvenir photo, and then leave without ever really appreciating or understanding what they have experienced.

It was at this point in the process that the dark narrative of the original piece demanded that Kahlo be implicated in the destination.  In my piece, Kahlo – in the physical state of Little Deer – is reduced to a faceless wooden cut-out prop where tourists flock to the tragedy and take turns assuming her tortured identity.

Tourist Attraction, Kahlo, Little Deer (1946), mixed media, 30″x38″x15″, 2006.

In Tourist Attraction the visitors have bought whole-heartedly into the sensation, consuming souvenir t-shirts and souvenir joke arrows.  They pose, unaware of the situation’s magnitude, waiting to be shot.

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