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Artists Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Mexican Painter

Frida Kahlo Photo
Movements and Styles: Surrealism, Magic Realism

Born: July 6, 1907 - Coyoacan, Mexico

Died: July 13, 1954 - Coyoacan, Mexico

"Feet - what do I need them for if I have wings to fly?"

Frida Kahlo Signature

Summary

Small pins pierce Kahlo's skin to reveal that she still 'hurts' following illness and accident, whilst a signature tear signifies her ongoing battle with the related psychological overflow. Frida Kahlo typically uses the visual symbolism of physical pain in a long-standing attempt to better understand emotional suffering. Prior to Kahlo's efforts, the language of loss, death, and selfhood, had been relatively well investigated by some male artists (including Albrecht Dürer, Francisco Goya, and Edvard Munch), but had not yet been significantly dissected by a woman. Indeed not only did Kahlo enter into an existing language, but she also expanded it and made it her own. By literally exposing interior organs, and depicting her own body in a bleeding and broken state, Kahlo opened up our insides to help explain human behaviors on the outside. She gathered together motifs that would repeat throughout her career, including ribbons, hair, and personal animals, and in turn created a new and articulate means to discuss the most complex aspects of female identity. As not only a 'great artist' but also a figure worthy of our devotion, Kahlo's iconic face provides everlasting trauma support and she has influence that cannot be underestimated.

Key Ideas

Kahlo made it legitimate for women to outwardly display their pains and frustrations and to thus make steps towards understanding them. It became crucial for women artists to have a female role model and this is the gift of Frida Kahlo.
As an important question for many Surrealists, Kahlo too considers: What is Woman? Following repeated miscarriage, she asks to what extent does motherhood or the absence of this impact on female identity. She alters the meaning of maternal subjectivity irreversibly. It becomes clear through umbilical symbolism (often shown by ribbons) that Kahlo is connected to all that surrounds her, and that she is a 'mother' without children.
Finding herself often alone, she worked obsessively with self-portraiture. Her reflection fuelled an unflinching interest in identity. She was particularly interested in her mixed German-Mexican ancestry, as well as in her divided roles as artist, lover, and wife.
Kahlo uses religious symbolism throughout her oeuvre. She appears as the Madonna holding her 'animal babies', and becomes the Virgin Mary as she cradles her husband and famous national painter Diego Rivera. She identifies with Saint Sebastian, and even fittingly appears as the martyred Christ. She positions herself as a prophet when she takes to head of the table in her Last Supper-style painting, and her accident when impaled on a metal bar (and covered in gold dust when lying injured) recalls the crucifixion and suggests her own holiness.
Women prior to Kahlo who had attempted to communicate the wildest and deepest of emotions were often labeled hysterical or condemned insane - while men were alinged with the 'melancholy' character type. By remaining artistically active under the weight of sadness, Kahlo revealed that women too can be melancholy rather than depressed, and that these terms should not be thought of as gendered.
Detail of <i>The Broken Column</i> (1944) by Frida Kahlo

"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone... because I am the subject I know best." From battles with her mind and her body, Kahlo lived through her art.

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