Frida Kahlo – Mexican artist from 1907 – as of today, still seen as a symbol of feminism. Her free spirit was a model for women worldwide. For example, Kahlo refused to shave her body and facial hair, which resulted in what we now call the ‘unibrow’. In particular her eyebrows were her trademark that she proudly portrayed in her paintings. Her eyebrows made her unique, characteristic and showed the strong woman she really was.

Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán (Mexico City), as the daughter of a photographer. Fate was not favorable to her because at the age of six she was struck by polio at her right leg. This was the source of a number of complexes that she would carry all her life. Showing her body hair was easier for her than showing her disability. The only nude portrait of her dates from 1930 and shows her sitting on a chair, her skinny leg underneath the other, so that her disability does not stand out. It is painted by her husband Diego Rivera.

Kahlo got a big accident to deal with. On September the 17th, 1925, the bus in which the 18-year-old Frida was sitting, drove through Mexico City and was hit by a tram. A piece of steel handrail penetrated her body through her left side and came out of her vagina again. Her ribs and hip were broken, her bad leg was broken in eleven places, her spine was broken in various places, and her foot was shattered. For months she had to stay in bed, encased in bandages and bandages, fighting against the pain. This was the moment she decided to start painting. Kahlo’s mother had mirrors attached to her sickbed so she could paint herself. Another drama that occurred as a result of this accident was a pregnancy that resulted in painful miscarriages. The breaking of her pelvis had ensured that she could not bear children. Frida was one of the first artists to break this taboo by dedicating a work of art.

Love also brought her little luck. On 21 August 1929, Kahlo married Diego Rivera. His jealous ex-wife, Lupe Marin, disturbed the wedding after which a few years later more drama followed: Kahlo’s sister Christina confessed in the summer of 1934 that she had a relationship with Diego Rivera. Disappointed in love, Kahlo left Diego, but the attraction remained and the love birds remarried after a fierce battle yet on December 8, 1940. Yet it was not a rose fragrance and moonshine, because the marriage contract had the condition that Kahlo was no longer obliged to have sexual intercourse with her husband. Later she would speak of ‘two serious accidents in my life (…) one in which a tram was approaching me, the other was my husband.’

Feet, what do I need when I have wings to fly?

Kahlo and Rivera both had extramarital affairs; Kahlo both with men and with women. Among her lovers were the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, who fled to Mexico, the New York photographer Nickolas Muray (1892-1965), who made a series of impressive photographs of her, and the Japanese-American landscape artist Isamu Noguchi.

The couple were very active not only in art but also in politics. So they participated in the Mexican Communist Party (PCM). However, after they captured Trotsky, who had fled the Soviet Union, they were expelled from the communist party. Kahlo, however, remained active as a communist activist; a few weeks before her death, she took part in a demonstration against American interference in Guatemala.

Frida unfortunately did not grow old. She died in 1954, a week after her 47th birthday. Presumably she committed suicide because the letter she left behind contained the following text: ‘I hope the end is happy and hope never to return’ …

The work of Frida Kahlo is characterized by the cheerful colors, which contrast with an alienating atmosphere. She did not shy away from the controversy: in a painting in memory of the actress Dorothy Hale she portrayed the moment of her suicide in a very graphic way. In her self-portraits, especially the ‘uni brows’ – which she had herself as well – but her embroidered outfits and flowers in her hair are also very characteristic. Frida painted from her fear and loneliness to overcome her pain. Kahlo has left 143 paintings, 55 of which are self-portraits. In 1953 she had her first solo exhibition in Mexico.

A well-known quote from her is:
Feet, what do I need when I have wings to fly?

Source: Wikipedia

Comments are closed.