FMP Artist Research – Frida Kahlo

After completing a recent peer review, I decided to take on board the feedback and look into the artist and feminist icon that I was already familiar with – Frida Kahlo. Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist who painted many portraits, self-portraits and works inspired by the nature and history of Mexico. She was inspired by Mexico’s popular culture and used a ‘naive folk art style’ to explore concepts of identity, politics, gender, class and race in Mexican society, and it is her exploration of women and real experiences such as abortion, miscarriage, birth and breastfeeding. Frida was mainly known for being Diego Rivera’s wife up until the late 1970s, when her work was rediscovered by art historians and political activists, and by the 1990s, she had become not just a recognised figure in art history, but also as an icon for Mexicans, the Feminist movement (which is a movement that I have previously researched that links greatly to my project), and the LGBTQ+ community.

One of the reasons why Frida Kahlo really inspires me in relation to my FMP is that she constantly defied gender stereotypes. She smoked, boxed and women tequila challenges against men, which is something that men only really done back when she was alive, and she even dressed like a man in a family portrait, contrasting her mother and sisters who wore dresses. She never altered or changed her ‘masculine’ features, such as her mono-brow and faint moustache, and even exaggerated these features in her self-portraits. She was actually quoted to having said “of my face, I like my eyebrows and eyes”. However, she still embraced her femininity, by wearing colourful dresses and putting flowers in her hair and styling her hair with braids. This shows that women can do what they please when it comes to their looks and their bodies, and I love how she was so unapologetic about how she looked, because that shouldn’t matter because at the end of the day she looked however she looked, and she could still paint and was great at art no matter whether she conformed to societies beauty standards and plucked her eyebrows or not.

She was also openly bisexual, which came at a time when the LGBTQ+ community wasn’t exactly celebrated or even recognised, so this is a big feat on its own. She had multiple relationships with both men and women, and she never apologised or made excuses for her sexual choices, which was very bold and unusual for the time, but has made the world more open and a better place today for the LGBTQ+ community, even though we do still have a long way to go. She was a feminist icon, and this shows that you can be a feminist no matter what your sexuality is, and feminism is open and for all people, regardless of your sexual orientation or anything else for that matter.

I have mentioned before that she painted real women and real experiences, which is something that wasn’t really done then because most topics weren’t even talked about, never mind painted in art culture. Some of the topics she painted were abortion, birth, miscarriage and breastfeeding, as well as other things, which were often, and still are, seen as almost impolite to discuss or even to do. These subject matters were altogether ignored, like most female experiences back then, and some still are nowadays, because, in 2018, people still feel like they have the right to tell a woman what to do with her body, and these opinions come from both men and other women. The fact that she painted these difficult to talk about topics (not for me, maybe for others, and definitely back then) shed light on different situations and the fact that females do actually have to go through these things and they aren’t myths that shouldn’t be discussed.

She embraced her so called ‘weirdness’ (who defines ‘normal’ anyway?) as she was different to other women at the time and this has enabled other women, and men as well, to be who they are and who they want to be. She defied the odds of her being a ‘victim’, as she faced many difficult situations and tragedies in her life, such as contracting polio at 6 years old, suffering from spina bifida and then suffering a near fatal car accident at age 18, that left her unable to have children. Frida began to paint after this life altering incident that left her bed-ridden for months, and this shows that she clearly advocated that pain and despair does not define us, or our lives. This reason and all of the reasons above are why I find her a truly inspirational and influential woman to me, and all women, and people across the world, and why she is so important to my project.

It is definitely the concepts and the meanings behind her pieces that related to my FMP more than the actual pieces themselves, and it is also her as a woman that will help drive my project forward and encourage me in further research, whether it relates to her or not, it will definitely relate to the subject matter.

Below are my references for this research:

Toni ♥



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