Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Celebration of Our Foremothers in the Arts: Frida Kahlo

When I think who I consider to be my foremothers, I have to take into consideration women in the arts. Frida Kahlo, although born in Mexico, greatly influenced US art and culture. She brought women into surrealism (although not a self proclaimed surrealist) with her collection of over 200 oil paintings, all the while suffering great physical pain. In many ways, Frida was one of the artists that helped me to realize that feminism can be seen in all media, including painting. And through this connection, my interest in feminism expanded.

Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 in Mexico City, and at age six she was diagnosed with polio. I
n 1922 she entered the most prestigious school in Mexico, Preparatoria (National Preparatory School), which had just begun to admit girls. In 1925 she was in a near fatal bus accident in Mexico which left her with serious injuries that she dealt with for the rest of her life. This incident led her to paint her first self portrait in 1926.

After having her first solo exhibition in 1953, she was involved in prestigious group shows in the U.S. at the Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Institute of Contemporary Arts, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Although associated with some of the most famous male surrealist like Picasso and Kandinsky, Kahlo did not want to be labeled and did not like being categorized with these men. "They thought I was a Surrealist," she said, "but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality."

Frida Kahlo's paintings chart the events of her life through her eyes. Women's artwork began to be seen in a different light and was forever changed. No woman before her had depicted the darkness, pain, and suffering that Kahlo painted. Frida showed women's experiences through disablement, rejection, miscarriage, suffering, Mexican-ness, Jewishness, homosexuality, revolution, and devotion. Kahlo showed the United States and the world that women can paint more than flowers and place settings, she showed the female experience as thicker and darker. Her technique is all her own. Her figures are personal, and exhibit how she saw herself. They are not realistic, they are imaginative and that is what makes them unique.

Kahlo died in her sleep in 1954. There was suspicion of suicide but nothing was ever proven. She was a communist, controversial, and unapologetic. Frida Kahlo's last journal entry said, 'I hope the end is joyful - and I hope never to come back - Frida.'


FeministPollyanna said...

They thought I was a Surrealist," she said, "but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality."

^^That is such a wonderful quote. I've always been intrigued by Kahlo's artwork, but unfortunately I don't consider myself very well-versed in it...but her works are so instantly powerful, especially "Las Dos Fridas".

By the way, loving this 'foremothers' series!

Ellen said...

Frida Kahlo was an amazing artist. She was brave enough to paint her own pain and suffering.

Jenna said...

I love her