STEM news – Frida Khalo: Botanist

Stem newsWe’re starting off another week friends. Here in Michigan, it’s the last week of school for K-12 students. I confess, I’m a little jealous.

One of my girlfriends is a teacher at a STEM-focused school in the Chicago area, and posted this news story to facebook this morning (follow me on facebook – I share lots of fun STEM things!) about a teacher who uses concepts in stories to communicate ideas about computer science. One example mentioned is how in stories where the character has to choose between two options, it’s a perfect example for binary logic. Brilliant!

Another interesting point made in the article is that communication and art skills are really important for people in STEM. It reminded me of one of my favorite jokes:


Q: How do you find an outgoing engineer?


A: (S)He looks at YOUR shoes


As in, engineers are shy and quiet and don’t communicate well. Get it? LOL

So this got me thinking about the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) versus STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) viewpoints – I agree with many others that it’s import for people in STEM to get a some Art in their life too. You need to be able to communicate (see above), but you need to see the beauty and art in things, and be comfortable using your creative side to solve problems. Having knowledge of history is also important to understand the evolution of theories and design over time, and to ensure not making the mistakes of the past.

So this whole process got me thinking about art. The Detroit Institute of Arts has an exhibit about Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo that I hear is lovely. I hope I get to see it before it ends July 12. YOU should check it out too if you’re in the area!

So I was paging through the news, and came across this story, about the New York Botanical Garden doing a show about Frida Khalo as well. Perfect! Who know that Frida Khalo, in addition to being a recognized artist was also an accomplished botanist? She had a diverse assortment of cacti, succulents, fruit trees, and other plants in her garden. If you’re in New York, go check out that exhibit – the photo looks lovely.

When she worked, her window overlook the garden, which I imagine gave her boundless inspiration. Even more cool, the story mentions that hybrid theory and duality were also inspiration for her paintings. The article says that she considered herself a bit of a hybrid, coming from European and Mexican parents.

In her painting “Portrait of Luther Burbank”, the hybrid concept is quite literal. Luther Burbank was a botanist, and she depicts him as a plant-human hybrid.

Portrait of Luther Burbank, borrowed from

Portrait of Luther Burbank, borrowed from

In “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird”, there is a contrast between Frida, depicted as calm and dressed in white and the bold background, with lush greenery, and a monkey, cat, and butterflies seemingly on top of her. Further, she is wearing a necklace made of thorns, causing her to bleed, and still remains stoic. It’s a beautiful piece of art, and speaks to the STEM/STEAM overlap.

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, borrowed from

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, borrowed from

That’s it for me tonight, friends – have to get my beauty rest!  Have a great week, especially if you’re starting summer vacation!


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