Frida Kahlo has attracted people’s attention to the level that the word “Fridamania” has been created to refer to the phenomenon. She is one of the most recognizable Mexican artists whose appearance has been used with similar regularity and frequently with the shared symbolism as imageries of Bob Marley (Conaty 34). According to Courtney, Michael, and Carla, Kahlo’s art and life have motivated various merchandise, and the fashioned world has appropriated her unique physical look (91). Consequently, she also featured her body in her arts, presenting it in different disguises and states: as clothed in different outfits, as a child, broken or wounded, for example, in the Tehuana costume, the European dress, or a male’s suit. Gallo notes that she used her physique as a symbol to explore queries on public roles (17).
Similarly, her paintings repeatedly depicted the woman’s body unconventionally, such as moments of childbirth and miscarriages. In portraying the feminine physique in graphic mode, Kahlo put the observer in the starring role of a voyeur, making it nearly impossible for the onlooker not to undertake a consciously held situation in response. In addition to using her body to symbolize her lifetime in most of her paintings, Kahlo was trying to question the Mexican community and build its identity, mainly social class, race, and gender, which led to her greatness.
Kahlo’s Appeal and Valuable Works
Kahlo’s widespread appeal is realized to stem first from the captivation with her lifetime history, especially its tragic and painful aspects. Courtney, Michael, and Carla argue that she has to turn out to be an icon for many political movements and minority groups (96). Conaty claims that Kahlo signifies a model of the representative of cultural minority and non-conformity who is viewed concurrently as a victim, abused, crippled, and survivor who battles back (46). Additionally, Kahlo is addressed like a hero since she validates her fight to discover the voice and public personalities (Kokoli 13). Her popularity is partly due to sharing the pain, which is a vital precondition for refining hope and dignity in contemporary society.
What is more, her posthumous success is associated with how she connects with contemporary sensibilities, her concern with psycho-obsessive, and her formation of an alternative world that conveys a voltage. However, her posthumous popularity, besides Kahlo’s image commercialization, has drawn many criticisms from various cultural commenters and scholars (Gallo 31). Kahlo does not only have several aspects of her lifetime being mythologized, but the dramatic facets of her memoir have as well overshadowed her paintings, generating a simplistic understanding of her arts where they are condensed to real accounts of happenings in her life.
Similarly, Kahlo’s valuable works and legacy have been commemorated in some ways. Her home, La Casa Azul, was declared a museum in the year 1958, which is among the most well-known museums in Mexico City, receiving visitors of about 26,000 per month (Kokoli 32). Moreover, Mexico City devoted Parque Frida Kahlo Park to her honor at Coyoacán in the year 1985. This park structures Kahlo’s bronze statue (Conaty 56). In 2001, Kahlo became the first Hispanic female to be privileged with a United States postage stamp and was initiated to the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public exhibition in Chicago, 2012, that parties the LGBT past and individuals (Courtney, Michael, and Carla 95). She received various tributes on her birthday in 2007. These comprised the Bank of Mexico printing an MXN$ 500-note, featuring her painting and her spouse Diego on the sides. Gallo asserts that it is one of her most enormous retrospective paintings in Mexico City, which broke its preceding attendance record. Besides other tributes, her art and life have encouraged artists in many fields (48). For example, in 1984, a biopic named Frida, Naturaleza Viva, was released by Paul Leduc and featuring Ofelia Medina as Frida (Gallo 45). He also mentioned that, in 1994, the American composer James Newton and Jazz flutist released an album titled “Suite for Kahlo.”
Being a stronger individualist detached from every precise artistic movement, Frida’s works have been linked with surrealism, indigenes and primitivism. Subsequently, Kahlo’s arts have become influential for postcolonial debates and feminist studies, making Kahlo a global cultural icon (Conaty 42). Furthermore, her celebrity position among the masses has led to the acceptance of her work as demonstrative of the interwar Latin American painting. Current displays such as“Contemporary Painting after Kahlo (2014)” at the Chicago Contemporary Art Museum attempt to reframe her cultural implication by emphasizing Kahlo’s encounter with conventional aesthetics of depiction.
Famous paintings of Kahlo that were Initially Criticized
Initially, people did not appreciate some of Kahlo’s works as much as Rivera’s. Many people criticized a number of her paintings because most women’s works were not valued by that time, which made them not take them seriously. Self-portrait with Hummingbird and Thorn Necklace, The Roots, A Few Small Nips, The Broken Column, and the Wounded Deer are few examples of her criticized works during her time but are now famous (Conaty 27).
In Self-portrait with Hummingbird and Thorn Necklace, Kahlo puts a thorn necklace on the hummingbird, but blood is seen oozing from the sores made on the neck because of the thorns. A black cat and monkey are present on the right and the left side of Frida. According to Kokoli, the hummingbird, which symbolizes freedom, is hanging unconsciously from a thorn necklace (22). Thus, Self-Portrait with Hummingbird and Thorn Necklace is possibly Kahlo’s most critically applauded masterpiece. Consequently, The Broken Column depicts the trauma Kahlo experienced in life due to the wounds she suffered in the accident, thus portraying her most conspicuous suffering. In The Broken Column artwork, Kahlo’s body is wide open, and a crumbling stone column substitutes her spine, symbolizing the effects of the tragic accident (Courtney, Michael, and Carla 93). Besides, nails are wedged into her body and face, and tears are seen on Kahlo’s face though she looks straightforward at the observer. Thus, the art offers an explicit depiction of the pain she experienced in her life.
Conversely, in The Wounded Deer, Kahlo’s head is positioned on the bleeding stag because of multiple piercings by arrows (Kokoli 49). She used her pet “Granizo” for the painting. Conceivably, the deer, which is the old sign for a right foot, symbolizes her right foot, which was crushed during the accident. From Conaty’s viewpoint, A Few Smaller Nips mirrors Kahlo’s anxious state of cognizance upon realizing that Diego is having a love affair with Cristina, her sister (66). A parallel is drawn between her and the unlucky female she comes to know in a newspaper (the unfaithful woman was murdered due to jealousy). Lastly, in the painting entitled The Roots, Kahlo is lying on the earth with her elbow supporting her head. Courtney, Michael, and Carla state that her torso is exposed as if she has delivered a vine. On the other hand, there is an imminent hazard as a deeper crack opening near her place (90). Gallo revealed that The Roots was sold for approximately US$5.6 million in 2006, setting a sale record for the Latin American portion of art (71).
Comparison of Rivera and Kahlo Paintings, Styles, Personalities, and Public Perceptions
Significant similarities and contrasts defined Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo as well as their chaotic marriage. As Courtney, Michael, and Carla note, both committed most of their lives in painting various objects, and they found worldwide achievement as painters (94). Several people still recognize them to be the essential Mexican artists (Gallo 16). However, each had a unique method of finding success and painting. Equally, both painters had strong political thoughts, loved, and identified with their native nation. Rivera and Frida had numerous similarities in their art and lives. They were both born in Mexico. By contrast, Frida painted small pictures while Rivera painted larger murals. Frida spent most of her life in agony due to her previous bus accident (Conaty 55). Correspondingly, Diego remained healthy until Frida died. Gallo mentioned that Kahlo frequently painted self-portraits, whereas Diego painted murals of industrial scenes (57). Kokoli has compared the concern in Diego’s life to the fear in the troubled lifestyle of Frida Kahlo. However, he has indicated that one of the dissimilarities between them is that many individuals associate Rivera with his paintings, while Frida is commonly connoted by the image of herself (20). This is a fascinating commentary on the manner female and male artists are considered.
From Gallo’s point of view, many Kahlo’s artworks, such as self-portraits, mimic and the standard bust-length depictions that were stylish in the colonial time, but also subverted the setup by representing their substance as less pretty than in reality (39). Towards the end of the 1930s, Kahlo began to focus gradually on this format, thus replicating Mexican people’s modifications. According to Kokoli, increasing disillusion through the legacy of a revolution and battling to handle the outcome of the greater depression, Mexico’s people were deserting the spirit of communism for egoism (30). Borrowing from Courtney, Michael, and Carla, Frida’s mask-looking self-portraits rebound the period fascination with the film shot of female beauty and the mystique of female distinctiveness (91). By continuously repeating similar facial features, she was correspondingly drawing from the representation of saints and goddesses in Catholic and indigenous cultures.
Most Kahlo’s paintings have numerous health imageries, which she depicts in hurt and pain, including bleeding and exposing her wounds (Gallo 60). Her paintings, particularly the one of miscarriage and childbirth, have a stronger sense of culpability, living one’s life at the cost of the other who has died so that another may live. Though Kahlo featured events from her personal life and herself in the paintings, Kokoli argues that they were vague in a sense than mere descriptions of her life (64). He also maintains that Kahlo used them to question the Mexican community and identity in it, mainly social class, race, and gender. Additionally, Kahlo acknowledged the battles brought by revolutionary philosophy.
On the other hand, Diego appears to be continuously in the heart of the political turmoil, romantic and artistic (Conaty 23). His biography records his confrontations with dictators and presidents, fights on his murals in the Hotel del Prado and Rockefeller Center, of his marriages to Kahlo and Lupe Marin. Much like Diego chronicles and art studies, the political aura around him, being the eyewitness to a Russian Revolution when he traveled aboard, and the Mexican Revolution on his return only helped make his paintings contain these vibrant themes of life. Rivera’s artworks continue to express people’s struggles in the entire world, even though holding onto their particular place now.
Political and Social Findings in Diego’s Art
Diego made it clear through his paintings that he was an atheist and a follower of Marxism and socialism. Discovering a natural opportunity for manifestation in the artwork, he furthers these components in some of his works. In such a way, he received the argument that would have come out from them in the previous century (Courtney, Michael, and Carla 94). They further indicate that some of Rivera’s most famous works have a similar intense story of their origin as they appear on the walls. As a result, the disagreement that shadowed Rivera is among the painting features that enabled him to stand out as one of the greatest muralists of his time.
Diego’s Outlooks on Censorship and Art
Conaty depicts that Rivera needed his murals and paintings to push the existing boundaries. Numerous paintings voice stories of the controversial happenings and subjects and are on exhibition for everyone to see (43). In the same way, Rivera faced much rejection by exposing these scenes. Other consequences included being detached from the Mexican Communalist Party to his murals being hidden for nine years since he declined to review the piece.
In conclusion, Kahlo uses her body to signify the pain she experienced during her life. Consequently, some of her paintings tried to inspire Mexican society and identity, mainly in social class, race, and gender. Her global appeal is recognized to stem from her life history, primarily sad and painful aspects. Some of her works that were initially criticized but are now famous include Self-portrait with Hummingbird and Thorn Necklace, The Roots, A Small Nip, The Broken Column, and The Wounded Deer. Overall, both Rivera and Kahlo dedicated most of their lives to painting and found worldwide success as painters even though they differed to some extent in style and personality. Diego appears to be continuously in the heart of the political turmoil, romantic and artistic, while Frida is commonly connoted by the image of herself.
Conaty, Siobhan M. “Frida Kahlo’s Body: Confronting Trauma in Art.” Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation, vol. 1, 2015.
Courtney, Carol A., Michael A. O’Hearn, and Carla C. Franck. “Frida Kahlo: Portrait of chronic Pain.” Physical therapy, vol. 97, no. 1, 2017, pp. 90-96.
Gallo, Rubén. “Mexico: A Case history.” The Routledge Handbook of Psychoanalysis in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Routledge, 2016.
Kokoli, Alexandra M. The Woman Artist as the Curatorial Effect. Liverpool University Press, 2013.