A schoolteacher by day, Carter has published a collection of short stories, “Frida Sex Dream and Other Unnerving Disruptions,” that includes a tale inspired by Kahlo. He says he first became a street artist to promote his 2012 book, “The Life Story of a Chilean Sea Blob,” but found that he enjoyed guerrilla art for its own sake. “I was able to engage people in a way that I can’t with my writing,” he says. “If I put something out on a street corner, I can watch people react to it immediately.”
Carter said he first became interested in Kahlo while teaching second-graders about the artist and her life. Kahlo died in 1954, leaving behind a trove of often dramatic self-portraits and other edgy work. She’s beloved by many, but also a complicated subject for a 7-year-old.
A pioneering female artist and symbol of independence, she celebrated indigenous imagery into her work. She was bisexual, and sometimes wore clothing that was considered, at the time, suitable only for men. As documented in her deeply personal art, she faced a lifetime of physical challenges resulting from childhood polio and then a bus crash that, at age 18, seriously injured her back. (One of the artworks in “Night of 1,000 Fridas,” by Sandra Pérez-Ramos, features a decorated wheelchair.)
“I teach at a pretty unique school: Georgetown Day School,” Carter says. “We have a big focus on diversity and celebrating different voices. We’ve been teaching about Frida Kahlo as part of Hispanic Heritage Month for as long as I’ve been there, which is 12 years.”
When Carter decided to take his project worldwide, he turned to Instagram. “I knew if I was going to go for 1,000, I needed to embrace everyone I could reach,” he explains. “Now we have people on five different continents who’ve heard about it, one way or another. To be honest, I don’t really know where they all came from.”
Carter says that the rules to participate were simple. The art must represent Kahlo. It must debut Jan. 25. And it must be displayed in public or in a place that’s open to visitors for free.
To “anyone who wants to do anything, I say yes,” Carter says.
Among the participants are: a fabric artist in Cyprus; a 21-member female street-art collective in Brazil; and former NFL quarterback Todd Marinovich. The vast majority of participants are in the United States; Italy takes second place.
Carter acknowledges that he can’t possibly keep tabs on everything that’s happening as part of the event. “I think it’s grown beyond something that I can keep track of,” he says.
As the event’s organizer, he says he has other goals besides paying tribute to Kahlo (and, yes, perhaps sparking a little curiosity about his book). “I hope people find a deeper connection to what [Kahlo] was all about, and why she is important to so many in a way that’s deeper than the gift-shop-tote-bag level,” Carter says. “I hope people celebrate the creativity of the artists who are participating. And I hope that the people who are participating who don’t consider themselves artists find some value in creating and feel part of a community of artists.”
As for Carter’s own contributions — which include a papier-mâché rendering of Kahlo’s eerie 1946 self-portrait, “The Wounded Deer” — he won’t say in advance where they’ll be on view. That information will only become available via the same channels Carter used to instigate this global street-art gala in the first place: on Twitter and Instagram, under his account: @theodorecarter2.
Admission: Free to all five sites; some offer classes for a fee.
Friday’s events (5:30-7:30 p.m.) include a costume contest and photo ops.
Visitors are invited to place paper flowers on window displays and watch live projections from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Includes live painting and music and an opportunity to make your own Frida-inspired wine glass or cheese board. Optional class, $30.
Dates: Friday, 7 p.m. to late. DJ Teddy Beats begins at 10:30 p.m.
1771-1795 Columbia Rd. NW.
Dates: Art on view 24 hours a day through Sunday.
Takoma, D.C., and Takoma Park, Md.
Dates: Art on view all day Friday in the downtown Takoma business district.