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

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.

Shrimp Plant

Shrimp Plant in Vignette

Shrimp Plant in Vignette © 2012 Bo Mackison

The sun doesn’t shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the whole world’s joy.  ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Yes. There is a plant called a Shrimp Plant, and once you’ve seen one, you forever know why it is called the shrimp plant. It looks almost good enough to eat. Roasted shrimp from Tucson’s first 100˚ day – yes, indeed! I was hungry and they looked tempting . . .

I visited the Tucson Botanical Gardens this morning, thinking I could be back home before it became too hot. I was wrong. I spent way too much time photographing Zen Gardens and wheelbarrows and shadows and fountains and sprinkling cans . . . you get the idea.

Shrimp Plant

Shrimp Plant © 2012 Bo Mackison

I also photographed this Shrimp Plant just before I left the gardens. Yes, it was two in the afternoon and way too bright, but happily these plants were in the shade. And yes, I was a bit worn out and did not set up my tripod because I had just packed it in order to leave.  But the wind was cooperative, I suppose, in that there was no wind.  And so I took several quick snaps of these beauties.

Really! Have you ever seen a flower that was as shrimp colored as a shrimp? And a flower that was both shrimp colored and the shape of a shrimp?

From my internet research, I discovered that these are tropical plants, native to Mexico, but popular as house and garden plants in the states of Texas and Florida. I didn’t see any references to Shrimp Plants in Arizona, but I know where several are blooming.

Visit the Tucson Botanical Gardens to get a look at the real thing.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.




Driving in Tucson – And a Visit to Tucson Botanical Gardens

"Daddy's Old Sportcoat" Cactus

“Grandpa’s Old Sports Coat” Cactus © 2011 Bo Mackison

This cactus isn’t really named “Grandpa’s Old Sports Coat”, but honestly, my grand-dad had a coat with this exact plaid pattern in the mid 1960s. He never wore yellow flowers on the top of his head, not that I remember, but still. It made me laugh. And I needed some laughing the day I visited with these plants.

It was the day I finally decided to drive in Tucson proper. It seemed time to get to know the city. For over two weeks, I’d been avoiding the busier roads, because that’s how I drive. Even in mid-sized Madison, I often choose to drive through the city rather than drive the more efficient expressway. I’m not one who particularly likes to drive when there’s lots of swerving in and out of traffic. But, being solo in Tucson means there is no one else to hand the car keys to, so I drive. Sigh!

Star Lines

Star Lines © 2011 Bo Mackison

I planned on making only three stops, first two stores and then the Tucson Botanical Gardens. I found my first destination, the bookstore. I wanted to get a decent map of Tucson, and it made sense to go there first. Later, when my iPhone ran out of power and I no longer had my “cheater” map on my phone, I was glad to have the paper map. Inconvenient though it was to keep pulling off the road to check the map, at least I had a vague idea where I was.

Actually, vague isn’t quite true. I was “lost and found” a half dozen times on that first day driving unfamiliar city streets. But I kept finding my way through.

What was it that Robert Frost said? “The only way out is through.” (It was Frost, I looked up the poem, it’s in A Servant to Servants, I always thought that poem unusual, but interesting.) And here I thought he was talking about getting out of a challenging situation, or walking through  life when you hadn’t the energy for one more step.

I didn’t realize it was a perfectly appropriate quote for my driving habits, too.

A Thorny Situations

A Thorny Situation © 2011 Bo Mackison

After an hour of driving in circles–the one-way streets are always going the wrong way–I decided I couldn’t get too terribly lost if I kept heading south, then west, then south, then west. It worked. I wove my way through the streets, and finally arrived at a place that looked familiar. Whew!

In the middle of all that lost driving, I stumbled upon the entrance to the Tucson Botanical Gardens. The house which belonged to the donor of the gardens (once a thriving landscaping business) is now the visitor center and gift store. I wandered through several gardens, including the childrens garden, a sensory garden, and a little Zen garden, though I didn’t see everything. Next time.

A few of the cactus looked like they had seen better days. The cactus have good reason for looking a little disheveled. Tucson and much of Arizona had record freezing temperatures a couple of weeks ago. The cacti are not adapted for temperature drops to 13 degrees. A docent I spoke with said it would be quite awhile before they knew the full impact of the cold spell, but many plants, including the aloe and the prickly pear, looked like they might not recover.

Packer Green and Gold in Tucson?

Packer Green and Gold in Tucson? © 2011 Bo Mackison

I never did make it to my third stop – the REI on the other side of town. I wanted to get one of those snazzy flashlights that have a stretchy band like a head band. You can wear the light around your head, like a miner’s lamp, and then your hands are free for holding camera equipment and hiking sticks when you get caught a half mile from the trail and it gets dark. I think the sun sets more rapidly in Arizona than it does in Wisconsin.

When I was at the botanical gardens, I was quite remiss in getting proper IDs for these plants. I took their photographs because they had such interesting details, but quite forgot about checking names. I even found a green and gold plant–do you think there are a lot of Green Bay Packer fans in the Southwest?

This post has been a rambling affair tonight. It’s been a long day, not driving around town or taking photos, but doing paperwork. Yes, even in Tucson, even on days that are utterly delightful, there are days when work needs to be done.

Actually, I am quite thrilled. I was invited to participate in a summer’s worth of shows in the Chicago area. And so today–for eight straight hours–I filled out paperwork and other goodies that were required for the five shows I’ll be doing. Then I had to dash to the post office before closing time to send the papers express mail. It’s exciting news and it is a great way to start planning my summer art fair season.

Now to take a little time for some R & R, and then I’ve another drive planned for tomorrow. But not in the city. I’m heading to the mountains!


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is living in Tucson for two months, exhibiting her photography in art shows, taking photographs, and blogging about photography, art fairs, and living life “solo.”  And she is discovering more than she had anticipated.