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  • Writer's pictureCARAVAN Arts

To Lift Our Spirits: Contemplative Art

CARAVAN Board Member James Rawley shares his top pick.

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940, Oil on canvas, 61.25 x 47 cm

In addition to its references to Mexican and Aztec culture and the religious symbolism of the thorn necklace, this work alludes to the physical suffering that Frida Kahlo endured due to a horrific streetcar accident that left her in constant pain, as well as the emotional suffering she experienced owing to the abuse and philandering of her husband, Diego Rivera. At the same time, this self-portrait conveys resilience and determination that so characterized the life and work of "Frida".

Painted soon after Kahlo’s divorce from the internationally-acclaimed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and the end of her affair with photographer Nickolas Muray, the work is currently part of the Nickolas Muray collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Since 1990 the painting has been featured in exhibitions in more than 25 museums in the United States and around the world, most recently at Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, February 27, 2019 - June 19, 2019.


As an international development professional with over thirty years of experience with the United Nations on four continents in politically complex settings, James W. Rawley was most recently the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and UN Humanitarian and Development Coordinator for Palestine (Headquartered in Jerusalem).  Prior to his role in Jerusalem, he was based in Cairo for six years, as he headed up the UN’s work in Egypt, serving as Resident Representative for the UN Development Programme.

He also previously served in a similar capacity in Yemen. Other extended assignments with the UN include: Myanmar (Burma); Nicaragua; Honduras; and El Salvador. He also served for shorter periods with UNDP in Geneva and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in New York. A native of New York, James completed his undergraduate studies at SUNY Buffalo and graduate work at Columbia University where he earned degrees in International Affairs and Urban Planning. James is married to Maria. They have two sons.  A resident now on Long Island, NY, he teaches international peacebuilding at Columbia University.


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