Frida Kahlo…where do I begin with this marvellous woman? Arguably, the most recognizable female artist of all time, Frida means a lot to people all over the world. A feminist, a visionary artist, an activist, a cultural icon and a survivor – Frida wore many hats and blazed the trail for many. Always the prolific painter, she created over 150 pieces of artworks that captured her innermost thoughts and emotions during the most pivotal moments of her tragically short life. As much of an influence her work has on modern art, Frida’s boisterous personality and the hardships of her life was equally impactful in creating her legacy in the feminism movement.
When it comes to her art, she is the finest example of an artist who channelled her pain in an act of self-expression that resulted in the creation of numerous masterpieces. She had faced numerous struggles and tragedies in her life that would have crumbled anyone with a lesser resolve. A crippling bout of Polio in her childhood, a debilitatingly tragic injury in her youth and a traumatizing miscarriage later in life – poor health was a bitter companion till the very end of her life. This pain and suffering were reflected in the symbolism that she deftly used in her work and became recognized for.
I remember the first time I saw her painting, The Two Fridas and the profound effect it had on me. In the painting, you have two Fridas sitting next to each other side by side, with their hearts exposed and connected to each other. One Frida is bleeding from her cut and exposed heart, while the other one sits there with her heart intact, comforting the hurt Frida. When I first saw this incredible piece of art, I had little context of what Frida was going through when she created it. I did not know about her tumultuous separation from her famous artist-husband, Diego Rivera, leaving her so doubtful and emotionally drained that she had to funnel all of it down into this piece. What I immediately felt when I saw The Two Fridas was the instant revelation of her pain, vulnerability and beauty. All bravely sprawled across the canvas, in rich colours and vivid femininity. Awe and inspiration hit me like a sack of bricks. I was left leaving artistically inspired and having a renewed sense of self that I wanted to desperately express through my art.
It is not only her art that profoundly inspires me, but it is the philosophy that she had about her life and womanhood which helped me in finding liberation from thoughts and ideas that were holding me back. When her ailments left her bed ridden, Frida famously said, “Feet, why do I need you, when I have wings to fly.” Nothing held her back, even her own broken body was unable to dim her shine and stop her from honouring her creative spirit. This is the kind of bravery and strength that we all inspire to emulate and as an artist, Frida inspired me to let go of my self-doubt about my abilities and create freely. With her unabashed individuality and her unrelenting commitment to never conforming to the patriarchal demands of her times, she remains an example for all present-day feminists who are striving to eliminate repressive gender norms.
I have honoured this icon in my painting called Frida. It was my way of paying respect to a woman whose legacy has survived the test of time and will endure many more years to come. She led the way for numerous female artists to create the art that they wanted and find success because of it. Her work should be studied and revered by all because at its very core, her art teaches you to celebrate your identity, to embrace your individuality and to live life to the fullest. A motto for every feminist to live by…
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