Saturday Art: Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo-Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird
(Picture courtesy of Yuan Tian at flickr.com.)
(Picture courtesy of Maria de Oro at flickr.com.)
Born to a photographer who moved to Mexico and adopted it as his home, Kahlo gave her birthdate as that of the Revolution there, in 1910. She has attained some of the resonance of the fiery days of that time, and much of her artwork has the distinction of her time, and its atmosphere.
Kahlo’s life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home known as the Blue House. Her work has been celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form.
Mexican culture and Amerindian cultural tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as naïve art or folk art. Her work has also been described as surrealist, and in 1938 André Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Kahlo’s art as a “ribbon around a bomb”. Frida rejected the “surrealist” label; she believed that her work reflected more of her reality than her dreams.
Kahlo had a volatile marriage with the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera. She suffered lifelong health problems, many caused by a traffic accident she survived as a teenager. Recovering from her injuries isolated her from other people, and this isolation influenced her works, many of which are self-portraits of one sort or another. Kahlo suggested, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” She also stated, “I was born a bitch. I was born a painter.”
Kahlo created at least 140 paintings, along with dozens of drawings and studies. Of her paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds. She insisted, “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”
Diego Rivera had a great influence on Kahlo’s painting style. Kahlo had always admired Rivera and his work. She first approached him in the Public Ministry of Education, where he had been working on a mural in 1927. She showed him four of her paintings, and asked whether he considered her gifted. Rivera was impressed and said, “You have got talent.” After that, he became a frequent welcomed guest at Kahlo’s house. He gave her many insights about her artwork while still leaving her space to explore herself. The positive and encouraging comments made by Rivera strengthened Kahlo’s wish to pursue a career as an artist.
Kahlo was also influenced by indigenous Mexican culture, which is apparent in her use of bright colors, dramatic symbolism and primitive style. She frequently included the monkey, which in Mexican mythology is a symbol of lust, and Kahlo portrayed it as tender and protective symbols. Christian and Jewish themes are often depicted in her work. She combined elements of the classic religious Mexican tradition with surrealist renderings.
Kahlo has a position of isolation, and unique femininity and is one of Mexico’s most recognized artists.
(Picture courtesy of Theresa Huse at flickr.com.)