Frida Kahlo at the Tucson Botanical Gardens

Frida y Diego © 2017 Bo Mackison

The exhibit FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life was created by the New York Botanical Gardens (NYBG) to highlight Frida Kahlo, renowned Mexican painter, and her deep connection and appreciation of the beauty of the natural world. The exhibit was designed by award-winning scenic designer Scott Pask and curated by Adriana Zavala, Associate Professor of modern and contemporary Latin America art history and Director of Latino Studies at Tufts University.

Tucson Botanical Gardens (the Gardens) was the only garden selected to receive this exhibit by NYBG. This setting showcased the exhibit in a landscape familiar to the original home and garden.

Window View from Casa Azul © 2017 Bo Mackison

The gardens are alive with the colors and textures representative of the original gardens in Casa Azul (Blue House). Archival photos from the 1940s show their garden as a showplace and gathering place.

Casa Azul’s Pyramid © 2017 Bo Mackison

In 1941, Frida Kahlo and her husband and noted muralist, Diego Riviera, designed and constructed a small pyramid in the garden of Casa Azul, their home in a suburb of Mexico City. They based their design on Mesoamerican models. Various native cacti are on display in Tucson; pre-Hispanic artifacts were displayed on the original.

Frida Kitchen II ©2017 Bo Mackison

Frida was an excellent cook and spent many hours each day shopping for fresh foods at the mercado, then preparing dishes for family and friends. A small replica of her kitchen is located in the children’s garden of TBG.

Frida’s Art Studio ©2017 Bo Mackison

A unique view of a replica of the studio environment of Frida Kahlo. Shelves are crammed with small sculptures and books on botany, poetry, pre-Hispanic cultures. Stoppered bottles of mineral colors are ready for use.

The Two Fridas © 2017 Bo Mackison

Contemporary artist Humberto Spindola, artist-in-residence at NYBG during the Frida exhibit, designed and created this sculpture made of paper dresses and bamboo-framed mannequins. The sculptures are made from tissue paper, a modern adaptation of the Aztec-inspired amate paper made from tree bark. The skeleton is molded bamboo fastened with hemp cord and wax.

His sculpture is an interpretation of Kahlo’s painting The Two Fridas, a painting where Kahlo illustrated her dual heritages. One Frida wears a white, European styled dress; the second Frida wears the dress of the traditional Zapotec women. Note the healthy and vibrant heart vs. the unhealthy, weakened heart. Kahlo did this painting in 1939, the year she divorced Diego.

The exhibit is at Tucson Botanical Gardens runs through May 31, 2017. It is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Check current information at

for the need of ritual — a poem

Blue Fountain ©2016 Bo Mackison

Blue Fountain ©2016 Bo Mackison

for the need of ritual

for greetings. for departures.
for days of fulfillment. nights of peace.
a ritual for dreams. for desires.
for sorrow. joy. praise.

a ritual for dawn. sunrise. morning. day.
for evening. sunset. twilight. night.
for dark skies. luminous moon. stars above.

a ritual for beginnings. middles. endings.
for seed. sprout. bud. blossom. seed head.

a ritual for paper and pencil. for written word. spoken word.
for poetry that inspires. that awes. that bleeds the heart dry.
for the gasp. for the sigh. for the song.

a ritual for gratitude. apology. forgiveness.
for fortitude. for solitude.

a ritual for fear. for grief. for anger. for sadness.
for joy. for ease. for comfort.

a ritual for traveling to places unknown.
a ritual for holding. staying. and release.

a ritual for sanctuary. for rest.
for acceptance. for contentment.

a ritual for the threshold. the transition.
for the need of ritual.


Ritual practice is the activity of cultivating extraordinary ordinariness. ~ Ronald L. Grimes


A Series of Photographs – Exploring the Creative Process

Palo Verde

Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lens: Jimmy
Film: Claunch 72 Monochrome

Often I am a slow photographer.

I check the times of sunrise and sunset, and plan shooting times to take advantage of the golden light. I pack my camera bag with a combination of multiple lenses and diffusers and hoods, with dust protectors and extra batteries and memory cards. I attach a heavy tripod to the bag, too.

This is slow photography. I sit and absorb the feel of a place. I connect with the space. I may wait for a certain cloud formation to float into a certain location, or a shadow to darken a rock.

And though it can be hard work, I find most of  the process passionately engaging. (I could do without the extra gear weight, especially when hiking in the desert, but…that’s part of the experience.)

Palo Verde

Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lens: Jane
Film: Blanko

But sometimes I am a spur of the moment photographer.

I grab my iPhone. I open the camera and I start shooting.

One of my favorite techniques for letting go and giving myself full permission to enjoy the process is what I refer to as my “shake and take” technique.

Palo Verde

Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lens: Kaimal Mark II
Film: Blanko

Yep. I open the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone and I take a photo.

Then I simply shake my cell phone. The app randomly changes lenses and film and I retake the photograph. I often shake and take a dozen photos of the same subject. Then I look at the photographs.

I’ll get a few duplicates – same lens and film combination – and choose which one I prefer. Otherwise, I simply take what pops up randomly.

I find it fascinating how the different combinations change a simple subject.

Palo Verde

Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lens: Jane
Film: Claunch 72 Monochrome

In this series, I took photos of a palo verde tree while in my car.

I was waiting for a friend and noticed the overhanging branches dangling over the car. I opened the window, aimed towards the sky, took a photo, shook the cell phone, and then repeated. A lot!

Happily, the app records the lens, film, and other data, so when I find a combination I am fond of, I can replicate it with different subjects.

Palo Verde

Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lens: Lucifer VI
Film: Blanko

There’s a lot to be said for a creative process that can change with my mood.

Slow and pensive, quick and experimental, metaphorical or playful. The many moods of the photographer and the resulting photos.

Black and White Photography at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens © 2014 Bo Mackison

A planter.

Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens II © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lots of places to sit and admire the flowering plants.

Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens III © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lots of light and shadow play.

Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens IV © 2014 Bo Mackison

White Chairs.

Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens V © 2014 Bo Mackison


Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens VI © 2014 Bo Mackison


A trip to the Tucson Botanical Gardens on a sunny day.

Essence of Place — Brown Mountain in the Sonoran Desert

Exploring Brown Mountain in Tucson Mountain Park

Exploring Brown Mountain © 2014 Bo Mackison

Here are limitless views of desert vegetation, strange giant cacti forms, rock formations uprising sharply into forms and craggy peaks almost unreal to strangers and ever fascinating in the changing flood of desert light. ~ C. B. Brown

For several years, I thought Brown Mountain was named for its predominately reddish-brown rocky face, a face studded with whiskers of toothpick saguaro cacti. Then I researched the origins of Brown Mountain, a small rounded mountain located in the Sonoran Desert in Tucson Mountain Park, just west of Tucson Arizona, and discovered it was named in honor of C. B. Brown (1889-1979) the foremost advocate for keeping the Tucson Mountain region a natural space.

Under Brown’s guidance and continued efforts, the Tucson Mountain region was closed to mining and homesteading in 1926, and preserved in its natural desert state for the enjoyment of all.

Exploring Brown Mountain in Tucson Mountain Park

Cactus Arms © 2014 Bo Mackison

The scenic qualities, luxuriance and variety of desert flora, abundance of wild life, and historical romance of the land are accepted material bits. ~ C. B. Brown

On Top of Brown Mountain

On Top of Brown Mountain © 2014 Bo Mackison

More fascinating is the intangible charm and spell of the desert region where the haze of the mountain ranges meet the blue of the sky and the desert impressive in its cloak of utter silence awaits the nature lover. ~ C. B. Brown

The Brown Mountain Trail has trail heads at both the Brown Mountain Picnic Area and the Juan Baptiste Picnic Area. It’s a five-mile hike, up, around, and back, with distant vistas at every turn. The views are especially great considering the minimal effort required to reach the peak.

The hike covers undulating ridges with views of Tucson Mountains and distant views of The Santa Ritas, Kitt Peak and other far away mountain ranges. Baboquivari, the sacred peak of the Tohono O’odham Nation and traditional home of I’itoi, the creator-god of the land, can be seen on a clear day.

There is a huge diversity of flora and fauna, easily a cross-section of what is found in the nearby region.

Exploring Brown Mountain in Tucson Mountain Park

CCC Shelter in Brown Mountain Picnic Area © 2014 Bo Mackison

No portrait of the Brown Mountain area would be complete without a photograph of the historical picnic area built by the Citizen Conservation Corps in the 1930s. You might notice a camera pack, a hiking stick, and a pile of books on the concrete table. This is my office away from my office – I can often be found working here when the desert sun works its magic and calls me to the desert.

Exploring Brown Mountain in Tucson Mountain Park

Brittlebush © 2014 Bo Mackison

Recent rain has brought yellow and green to the desert floor. Most of the common flowers are yellow — brittle-bush, desert marigold, acaia, mesquite, and many more.

Exploring Brown Mountain in Tucson Mountain Park

Mesquite Near Brown Mountain © 2014 Bo Mackison

And when the rains come, the trees, often without leaves in the more arid times, sprout tiny specks of leaves. From a distance the trees show lovely and soft green forms.

Exploring Brown Mountain in Tucson Mountain Park

Sonoran Desert in Brown Mountain © 2014 Bo Mackison

I am no longer surprised at the diversity of plants, cacti, and trees I see in the Sonoran Desert, how they are so openly spaced in order to provide each plant with needed rain and nutrients from the ground, but I am often taken aback by how “manicured” the desert often seems — as if a landscape gardener comes out early every day to rake the rocks, put all in place.