In celebration of International Women’s Day, I wanted to write about one of my favourite female artists and feminist icons: Frida Kahlo. Mexican Artist Kahlo was not afraid to paint real experiences that women face rather than ‘lovely’ scenes of a smoothed over existence. It is easy to see how she has influenced many artists who are working today, such as Tracey Emin, particularly with their work surrounding birth, abortion and miscarriage. Kahlo was open about being bisexual, and refused to get rid of her ‘masculine’ features such as her iconic monobrow. Nowadays, I would not be surprised if she would chose to identify as non-binary. Her work serves as a great influence to me, seeing her passion painted onto canvas.
‘The Two Fridas 1939’ was one of Kahlo’s first large scale oil paintings. She took up painting whilst on bed-rest recovering from a car accident which stopped her being able to bear children. According to her website, this piece was completed after her divorce. It also reads:
This portrait shows Frida’s two different personalities. One is the traditional Frida in Tehuana costume, with a broken heart, sitting next to an independent, modern dressed Frida.
For me, the real focus of this painting are the hands, the two that are holding one another. Even though the painting shows Frida’s two personalities, it is a representation of her own inner strength to support herself through the difficult time she was going through. This is mirrored with the artery which connects both of their hearts, although ‘traditional’ Frida’s heart is broken and severed, bleeding onto her dress. I see that as Frida letting go of her heritage and traditions, perhaps brought on by her divorce.
Both figures gaze towards us with an unimpressed look, like we are not welcome to view them. There is a dark and stormy sky behind them, perhaps a metaphor for her mood and emotion at the time of the painting.
More of her work is available to see and read about on her website here.