How Frida Kahlo’s Paintings Questioned Societal Roles
In today’s popular culture it’s hard to miss the depictions of a stunning woman with prominent brows and her hair pinned up with flowers in her hair. But who is this woman who just by her fierce presence emits a sense of pride, strength and rebellion? She was the late Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), a Mexican painter who lived during an era which was wrought with political turmoil during and after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). Her environment would shape her personal life, which she would depict in machisimo-crushing imagery that would inspire a new generation of female artists to be bold & combat the roles which had been ascribed to them.
How Frida’s Personal Life Questioned Societal Roles
Kahlo was born in a small village just outside of Mexico City to Guillermo Kahlo and Mailde Calderón y González. Kahlo’s parents were often very sick with her father suffering from epilepsy. Frida too, became very sick at the age of six when she contracted polio. This illness would cause her right leg to be shorter and thinner than her left which subjected Frida to bullying by her peers. Her vulnerability presumably strengthened her bond with her father as he would focus his attention on developing her strength and fortitude over her siblings’. He taught her literature, philosophy and sports—bicycling, roller skating, swimming, boxing and wrestling—even though her society dictated that these activities should be reserved for just males.
In 1922 she attended the prestigious National Preparatory School of Mexico and was one of 35 girls admitted out of 2,000 students. While there she was attracted to subjects that championed Mexican culture, political activism and social justice. Kahlo stopped attending when it was discovered that she had had an affair with her teacher, Sara Zenil.
By 1929, Kahlo had married Diego Rivera, a notable Communist and painter. Though her husband was a famous muralist who wielded immense influence, she continued to follow her passions and chose not to let her husband’s fame attempt to drown out her own obvious talent and creative purity.
How Frida’s Paintings Questioned Societal Roles
Frida’s work was largely unknown during her lifetime until her biography was published by Hayden Herrera posthumously. Hayden released the book “Frida Kahlo: the Great Hispanic Heritage” in 1983 and wanted the world to know about Kahlo’s exquisite talent and creative artworks. Kahlo’s artwork brought women’s issues such as child-birth, miscarriage, abortion and conception to the forefront during a time when these subjects were strictly taboo. Kahlo’s fearlessness to paint what she was thinking, feeling and seeing as a woman created an avenue for others to think and discuss their own issues too.
Frida’s Legacy on a New Generation of Female Artists
Frida’s work continues to inspire today’s generation of female artists like Ellen Berman and Iris Salazar . Frida’s work is the very definition of women empowerment; Kahlo knew who she was as a woman, artist, and female activist because her life exuded perseverance, confidence and boldness. It is our hope that future generations of women will continue to follow in her footsteps with gleaming determination and hope.