Durham County

Inspired by Frida Kahlo, Latino artists will create downtown Durham’s 2 newest murals

Two of downtown Durham’s walls will soon get a colorful makeover, thanks to two new murals inspired by Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

The murals coincide with an exhibition of works by Kahlo and Rivera this fall at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Kahlo and Rivera, known for their large-scale murals, are key figures in Mexican Modernism.

Local artist Cornelio Campos is painting one, while Florida-based Cecilia Lueza will paint the other. The murals will adorn roll-up doors facing East Chapel Hill Street at the Durham Convention Center.

They were commissioned through a partnership between the North Carolina Museum of Art and Durham’s Cultural and Public Art Program.

Campos began painting his mural this week, while Lueza will start working next week. They will complete the murals with help from Triangle students from the NCMA Teen Arts Council, according to a news release.

Campos, who was born in Mexico, said he was honored to paint a mural in conjunction with the larger exhibition. His mural features soaring butterflies and bird of paradise plants, both prominent subjects of his art.

“The inspiration is to show some Mexican folklore art and to honor two Mexican artists together with my own art,” he said. “It is to promote the upcoming exhibit of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, who are very well-known.”

Kahlo and Rivera were married. The exhibit explores “the myths that surrounded them in their lifetime ... from their significant bodies of work, but also from their friendships (and conflicts) with leading political figures and their passionate, tempestuous personal relationships,” according to the museum’s website.

Campos has collaborated on several other murals around Durham, including one decorating the exterior of Torero’s on Main Street that was damaged during the April 10 natural gas explosion.

Lueza’s mural will include a portrait of Kahlo surrounded by her own signature geometric designs in brightly colored graduated tints. It will be the first time she has worked in Durham.

“This is a great opportunity,” she said. “Frida Kahlo has inspired many artists. I am looking forward to painting this mural.”

The murals will be officially unveiled Sept. 21, during the CenterFest Arts Festival.

“The new murals are already transforming that block of Chapel Hill Street – a lot of us find an excuse to walk by the convention center just to check on the progress,” said Margaret DeMott of the Durham Arts Council. “The Latino population is so important to Durham. It is good to see work of contemporary Latino artists and a reflection of Latino cultural heritage in the heart of downtown.”

The exhibit, “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection,” will be at the museum Oct. 26-Jan. 19. For details on tickets, go to ncartmuseum.org.

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Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.
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