It’s 6th July and it would have been Frida Kahlo’s 108th birthday today. Frida was an incredible artist – one of my favourites, actually! – and a fascinating human being. I haven’t had much time to prepare this post, but hopefully it’s a decent tribute to her. I think she’d appreciate the spontaneity. 🙂
I’ve written a little about her in my Five Favourite Female Artists article (x). There was a fine line between the real and the surreal in Frida’s art – her painting “Henry Ford Hospital”, depicting the harsh clinical atmosphere of the place after a miscarriage, is visceral and shows her lying on the hospital bed with blood all around her. However, it also has an air of surrealism, with floating images all around the bed. Frida maintained that she painted neither dreams nor nightmares; her art contained “(her) own reality”. Her miscarriages were potentially the result of a traffic accident she suffered as a teenager. She struggled with the subsequent pain from her injuries for much of her life, although she insisted that “tragedy is the most ridiculous thing”.
She had a tempestuous and volatile relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera – the couple divorced in 1939 but remarried in 1940, and both had numerous affairs. Frida was bisexual; apparently Diego “tolerated” her relationships with women but became jealous of her male lovers. She is often celebrated for her depiction of Mexican indigenous culture in her art, although it is her unflinching expression of the female experience that makes her so fascinating to me from a feminist perspective. The artistic development of her self-portraits demonstrates her changing attitudes. For example, her first self-portrait, “Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress”, has the dreamy style of the Italian Renaissance and she is depicted as slim, fair and elegant. Her later art is much more uncompromising and personal; she painted herself exactly as she was.
Frida was remembered only as Diego Rivera’s wife, until a fresh wave of Neomexicanismo art began and her work started to be fully appreciated. She was witty, intelligent and – if the Pinterest boards devoted to her are anything to go by – immensely quotable and insightful. You know that game where you have to decide on famous people, alive or dead, who you would invite to a dinner party? I’d invite Frida to my imaginary BBQ.
Happy birthday, Frida. May you continue to inspire, to teach, to shine for years to come. Your legacy lives on.