Happy birthday, Frida Kahlo!

BY:People’s World| July 6, 2020
Happy birthday, Frida Kahlo!


Happy Birthday comrade Frida Kahlo!  Best known for her strikingly distinct image—her face framed by her faint mustache and trademark unibrow—her unconventional marriage to Diego Rivera, and her embrace of Communism, Kahlo is without a doubt one of the 20th century’s most outstanding artists.

The hallmark of both the Mexican artist’s life and her art was great physical and emotional pain. She suffered from polio as a child and later was injured in a streetcar accident that shattered her pelvis and spine, requiring a three-year convalescence and operations throughout her life. Her physical pain was eclipsed only by the torment of her husband’s many infidelities, including with her sister. Kahlo described her life in terms of two great accidents—the streetcar and Rivera, Rivera being the worst of the two. While his murals depicting the people’s struggle gained huge fame in his lifetime, Kahlo’s deeply personal work was largely overlooked—her first solo showing of her work occurred only a year before her death.

A look at Kahlo’s dreamlike images reveals unexpected details as well as lessons about struggle that are very personal, yet highly relatable. While some critics say that Kahlo out mastered even celebrity-obsessed Pablo Picasso at cultivating her own image, one need not dig too deeply into her work to unearth the great conflicts that marked her life and work.

The duality often seen in her paintings mirrored that of her personal life. She often dressed in men’s clothes and embroidered Tehuana Indian dresses, and responded to her husband’s infidelities with many dalliances of her own—with both men and women. And while her image sometimes was glamorous, she led a fairly domestic life, surrounded by a house full of plants, pets, and simple pleasures.

Her work screams out the pain of abandonment and loss in an age where little is intimate anymore. Her style was instinctual, at times confrontational, yet surprisingly delicate and accessible. New tenderness is revealed in her portraits of children, particularly in the detailed use of color in a portrait of her baby niece, appearing as a servant girl. Frank sexuality and humor are evident in the still life “The Bride Who Is Frightened to See Life Open,” for which Kahlo posed a bride doll with sliced papayas and watermelons upon a table top.

In this age of reality shows and staged intimacy, the personal art of Frida Kahlo has arguably eclipsed that of her famous husband, although his heroic stature still resonates today throughout Mexico and the art world. The key to appreciating her art is the understanding that struggle and great progressive change begin first in our own minds and experiences, creating a ripple effect throughout our lives and the lives of others. In that way, we recognize that we all strive for change and engage in the fight—both within ourselves and in our world.

Adapted from the People’s World.

Image: seven resist, Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA 2.0).


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