“Fruits are like flowers: they speak to us in provocative language and teach us things that are hidden.”
Frida Kahlo, (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954), born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, was a self taught Mexican artist, best known for her iconic, revealing and often dramatic self portraits (55 out of her 143 paintings ever made were self portraits). She remains one of the most influential artists of her generation, a unique style icon, today, still used as a muse for others, such as Beyonce.
In late June, an exhibition opened at The Art Gallery of New South Wales if you are interested in seeing more and learning more about this intriguing lady, along with her husband Diego Rivera, two of Mexico’s most influential artists of the 20th century. Some sessions are already sold out, but they do offer timed entry tickets to avoid disappointment. See here for more info.
‘I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to better.’
Frida certainly had a unique dress sense, and sense of individual style, influenced heavily by her Mexican culture. She favoured bright colours, embroidered dresses, with flowers and ribbons woven throughout her hair, and kept her naturally thick eyebrows untended. She was considered to be fairly unfashionable at the time, with her hair parted down the centre, and braided into a tight bun and often exaggerated her features in her portraits to make herself even more so. At the time, Frida was considered to be somewhat unconventional, with her peers favouring a more modern dress sense rather than the more traditional attire, so she stood out.
Her unique signature style could easily be identified, and often featured throughout her work, paired with imagery of foliage and flowers from her own garden, jewellry made from shells, stone and bones, as well as some of her pets. This was her way of demonstrating the close relationship between humans, animals and nature. Kahlo frequently incorporated plants/flowers/foliage like “elephant-ear” leaves or Viejo (old-man cactus), other cacti and flowers.
“I paint flowers so they will not die”
Kahlo contracted polio as a child, so much of her art focused on her physical and emotional pain. In fact, part of her signature dress style was a direct result of her condition, covering up her smaller/thinner leg with long layered clothing. Kahlo was also involved in an accident in her teenage years, when on September 17, 1925, she was was riding in a bus that collided with a trolley car. Kahlo suffered serious injuries such as a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, fractures to her right leg, a crushed, dislocated foot and a dislocated shoulder. On top of that Kahlo was pierced through her abdomen by a piece of iron handrail which compromised her future fertility. Whilst Kahlo did become pregnant three times, each time, sadly she lost each baby.
As a direct result of her experience with infertility, Kahlo references reproductive failure in several paintings; in Henry Ford Hospital right after her miscarriage in 1932, shows a woman, Kahlo herself, on a bed bleeding. She also often uses flowers as a symbol of fertility throughout her paintings.
If you are a fan, the exhibition is open until October 9th, so don’t delay!
Til next time,