Six Degrees of Spratling
With Frida Fest on the horizon, I've been fielding the question, "What's the connection between the Bay and Frida Kahlo?" nearly every day. I usually jokingly respond with a Frida Faux Fact like, "Her parents eloped right there at the Methodist Church!", or "Her family used to own a vacation home here and this is where she summered as a child."
I take care not to facilitate these faux facts too far into the conversation, but at the end of the day I'm left wondering this myself. So I thought about how I could stretch the connection and through a conversation with a friend, I found myself led away to a utopia that I've been told could never exist again: Dixie Bohemia (see suggested reading in sidebar).
I could go on all day about how this "comprehensive picture of the mix of demimonde and haute culture of the 1920s" was nurtured in the French Quarter, but truthfully, I'm overcome with jealousy and sadness because I missed it all.
I'd forsake a thousand iPhones to live in this special place in time among the greatest authors, musicians, and artists the world has ever seen. I know that as a Millennial I'll never be able to do this time period justice, but I still smell the fragrance of this era lingering in our small Bohemia of Bay St. Louis. For it was here at its vacation home summering, and that is not a faux fact.
The "Famous Creoles" existed in a time and place forgotten, but familiar to us. The hive of activity was concentrated in the French Quarter, but they, like a lot of us, found themselves drawn to the Coast.
Charles Bein, an artist from the circle of French Quarter legends, owned a home right here in Bay St. Louis.
A.B. Dinwiddie, the president of Tulane University, has deep roots in the Coast having several relatives whom he frequently visited. Also, John Dinwiddie, president of the Tulane School of Architecture haunted the area and his descendants still live here today - one of whom co-owns Smith & Lens Gallery (photographer Ann Dinwiddie Madden).
Among these great innovators and artists was William Spratling, the architect who all but created a design movement in Mexico and popularized the Taxco silver style in the U.S. and in Mexico.
Several people on the coast own Spratling pieces. This lucky writer happened to pull a stunning pair of Spratling Starfish earrings out of her pile of neglected jewelry. Don't worry - they were promptly shined and adorned the minute the mark was discernible through the loop!
Not to dig too deep into Spratling (we'll save that for another column) but let's go back to Frida's connection...
While he was in Mexico, Spratling surrounded himself with the artistic cream of the crop- one of those being Diego Rivera. Rivera acquired several pieces of Spratling silver for his lovely wife, Frida Kahlo.
So therein lies our connection, albeit very far-fetched, to the talented Mexican artist. She and her husband rubbed elbows with some of our people and because of that we feel like we're basically BFFs.
Learn more about Spratling Silver in my upcoming August article!