Puppet artist Anatar Marmol-Gagné based “Calle Allende,” a puppet theater show, on something Frida Kahlo wrote about her enigmatic double self-portrait, “The Two Fridas.”
In the painting, the Mexican artist renders two versions of herself: One in a European-style high-necked dress, and with a broken heart; the other an independent Frida in Tehuana dress, heart in tact, a mini portrait of Diego Rivera in her hand.
Kahlo painted “The Two Fridas” in 1939 shortly after her divorce from Rivera. In her diary, Kahlo wrote that the painting originated from an imaginary friend she had as child:
“I must have been six years old when I had an intense experience of an imaginary friendship with a little girl .. roughly my own age. On the window of my old room, facing Allende Street, I used to breathe on one of the top panes. And with my finger I would draw a “door”…Through that “door” I would come out, in my imagination, and hurriedly with immense happiness.”
While later Kahlo said the painting expressed her desperation and loneliness after the separation from Diego, many scholars read the double portrait as also a representation of Kahlo’s idea of her own duality. Part of her is always connected to her culture and traditions — the other part is the independent artist, following her imagination, chasing adventure and experimentation.
Marmol-Gagné’s describes “Calle Allende” as a puppet theatre work that “brings to life Frida’s struggle to reconcile her broken self and dying inspiration. Frida’s pain has clouded her, but in a moment of clarity soon realizes that without her imagination, she will lose her lifeline.”
Marmol-Gagné is the featured artist in this year’s Austin Puppet Incident, an annual showcase of short puppet works — for adults, not for children — presented by Glass Half Full Theatre and Trouble Puppet Theater Company.
Related read: “Caroline Reck Builds a Theater of Objects and Ideas”
Originally from Venezuela and now based in Connecticut, Marmol-Gagné has trained at the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center amd is the founder and curator of The Pinned & Sewtured Puppet Slam. She is currently the Artist-in-Residence at Artspace in New Haven.
The Austin Puppet Incident plays Dec. 6 and 7 at the Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St. Tickets: puppetincident2019.brownpapertickets.com