Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. Inspired by the country's popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society.
She was a feminist icon. Frida defied gender stereotypes, she smoked, boxed, won tequila challenges against men, and dressed like a man in a family portrait. She refused to alter her ‘masculine’ features, including her uni-brow and faint moustache, and actually exaggerated these features in her self portraits.
She was openly bisexual. Frida had multiple affairs with both men and women throughout her marriage to Diego Rivera. She made no apologies or excuses for her sexual choices, a bold act for her time.
She painted real women and real experiences.
Frida deviated from the traditional depiction of female beauty in art and instead chose to paint raw and honest experiences that so many women face. Her subject matter included abortion, miscarriage, birth and breastfeeding, among other things, often seen as taboo and like many female experiences altogether ignored.
Frida experienced an immense amount of suffering throughout her life; contracting polio at age six, suffering from spina bifida, and then at the age of 18 suffering a near-fatal car accident that left her unable to bear children. Though she was bedridden for months after the accident, Frida began to paint. She transformed her pain into passion on the canvas. Though there is always a sense of despair and suffering in her self portraits, her gaze remains defiant and fierce. While so many women are depicted as the victim, Frida demonstrates that pain is an intrinsic part of life but does not define us.
Is there a bit of Frida in you? How do you connect with this icon of Mexico. Let’s celebrate fierce women that take a stand and use their voice, or their art, to make a difference in society for women everywhere.