My Fascination with Frida

The dreariness of my high school’s art studio was enhanced by the pea green walls and matching green and white checkered floor tiles, clearly décor left over from the sixties or seventies. Whenever my art teacher was particular back logged, she would torture us with some droning educational video on the life of an artist. Most of the time if she wasn’t looking, we’d sleep through them, taking little interest in art’s making. Most of the artists on these tapes were white men, European or American. Then one day she put in a video about a Mexican woman I’d never heard of: Frida Kalho.

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Being such mature high school students, as soon as the film began, much of the room burst out in laughter and made fun of her prominent unibrow. Who wouldn’t notice it? Especially in the superficial society we live in today. She was not ashamed of this feature, however. In most of her self portraits it stands proudly across her brow pronouncing to the world,  I am here and if you do not like me, you can go F yourself. In reality, it is likely her culture at the time was not as scrutinizing about eyebrows as ours is today. Of course, there is much more to Frida Kalho than the thick brows perceived by most of us as an imperfection.  She was actually beautiful but her self-portraits fail to do her justice. In most of her paintings, she appears sullen and unattractive.

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Self-portrait, Frida Kalho

Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico City in 1907 and as a young child suffered from polio. She planned one day to become a doctor. Those plans were thwarted after a horrific bus accident broke her spinal column and did irreversible damage to her pelvis and reproductive system. Bed ridden, she took up painting as a way to pass the time.

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Self-portrait, Frida Kalho

Her personal life was no better. She and her husband both had affairs and a troubled relationship with one another. They got divorced after Frida learned that he cheated on her with her sister, but they remarried less than a year later.

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“The Two Fridas,” Frida Kahlo was painted shortly after her divorce

In the last year of her life, she was very ill and had to have one of her legs amputated. She died at the age of 47. Although her cause of death was reported as a pulmonary embolism, some suspect she overdosed. An entry in her journal, written a few days prior to her death reads,  “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return — Frida.”

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“Frida,”Hayley Rose

Frida’s existence of pain and turmoil can be seen in her self-portraits. During her lifetime she had one art show in Europe and sold one painting to the Louvre. Like many famous artists before her, she did not receive notoriety until many decades after her passing.

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“Frida,” Hayley Rose

I’ve never been particularly fond of Frida’s art, but I find her life fascinating. It is a story she documented well through her paintings, which capture the raw emotion of the human spirit. In them, her vulnerabilty and pain is blatent, as she hides behind no sheild and paints her life with all it’s imperfect details. Few would dare to be so bold. Perhaps this is what others find so interesting about her as well.

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“Frida,” Hayley Rose

Whatever it is, her human spirit lit a fire in the art room that day, and ignited the normal drudgery of the class. At the time, her presence in pop culture not only inspired one young artist but represented an largely omitted demographic: female artists.

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