Art! Dance! Culture! Whatever you were looking for on Saturday night, the High Museum of Art’s College Night had it all. College Night was a colorful, artistic playground of excited students, fantastic exhibitions, activities and performances.
The High Museum ushered in students from all over Atlanta to visit the new Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit, fostering a lively environment to match the magnificent artwork of Frida and Diego, with salsa lessons and delicious food. This event showcased student talent as well, featuring student artwork from Kennesaw State University and dance performances with members of the Emory Dance Company.
The High Museum was in full form, as students lined the lobby level perusing amazing works by student artists from Kennesaw State. A few particularly striking pieces were by Kelly Ozner, whose photographs depicted working class Southerners. Her photo entitled Winston, 2013 captured my attention, making me wonder about the man in the picture with a Banksy T-shirt and a faraway look in his eyes.
Another notable piece was by Mersia Mafin, titled Eggs in a Basket, wherein a woman’s form was skillfully painted kneeling forward as she clutched a basket of eggs. According to its description, the painting was to “reflect the thoughts that nest in one’s head.” The painting was brilliant and enthralling, certainly provoking introspection.
Following the student exhibition was an exciting salsa dance break led by students from the University of Georgia. With cultural cues taken from the Frida and Diego exhibition, the salsa lessons were an animated portion of the night, and students had a great time dancing to the beat.
The museum also provided delicious Mexican dishes, from Mexican hot chocolate to flavorful empanadas, which I simply had to try as a serious journalist. The vibrant aesthetics and activities certainly added to the overall excitement about the exhibition.
Of course the Frida and Diego Exhibit itself was in full form, featuring richly colored, deeply moving paintings by Diego Rivera and the stark, arresting artwork of Frida Kahlo.
Rivera’s work depicts large, yet personal scenes of people and slightly suggestive imagery; however, his wife’s work completely contrasts with his own. There is absolutely nothing suggestive about Frida Kahlo’s work, as she tackles striking subject matter head-on, such as her miscarriage and her own face.
I found Frida’s self-portraits to be unforgiving, complex and completely fascinating. My favorite pieces, however, were the photos of Frida and Diego at the end of the exhibit. The love between the two artists was very evident and was an appropriate conclusion to the exhibit.
Fortunately, the end of the art exhibit did not mark the end of College Night. A fantastic dance performance choreographed by Helen Hale and performed by members of Emory Dance Company reflected the spirit of Frida and Diego’s art. The performance was aided by seemingly simple props, including a few chairs, a potted plant and thin red-tinted tubing, and the dancers themselves were draped in 19th century-styled clothing. The dance, however, was as surreal, dramatic and intriguing as Frida and Diego’s work itself.
The dance was a mixture of modern, hip-hop and interpretive styles, with the three dancers recreating Frida and Diego portraits, skillfully transitioning from one still to the next. Colorful lights were cast over the dancers, pulsing and shifting with the music. A room of about 100 onlookers stood mesmerized by their hypnotizing movements, which featured moments of resistance and surrender, as the dancers lifted, pushed and intertwined before the audience.
The piece was very well executed, with the dancers completing costume changes while maintaining a dreamlike appearance. Portions of the dance were chilling and ominous, as one dancer wrapped the tubing around her neck and stained her white dress with a pomegranate, proceeding to recreate the portrait The Two Fridas with the other female dancer.
The dance was absolutely captivating, with the dancers moving purposefully but gracefully. The complex and otherworldly movements perfectly encapsulated Friday and Diego’s artistic styles.
Overall, College Night was the perfect way to excite Atlanta students about Frida and Diego’s wonderful art. Every portion of the night perfectly added to the vibe of the exhibition: the music, the food and the salsa dancing. Featuring student artwork was a wonderful way to engage the community and showcase the talented student artists at Kennesaw State.By also including the University of Georgia salsa dancers and the Emory Dance Company students, the High Museum truly brought college students together from all over the state in the name of art, no doubt an amazing feat itself.
Of course, our outstanding Emory Dance Company members were the talk of the night with their astounding performance, which excited everyone about the artwork of Frida and Diego. All should visit this excellent exhibit, for while the students may be gone, the youthful and entrancing spirit of College Night remains with the artwork of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
– By Jordie Davies