The complexity of Frida Kahlo’s life, including her history of trauma and turbulent relationship with fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera, fueled much of her artistic production during the mid 20th century. The unique persona she created lives on today as a bold icon of feminism and resilience to contemporary audiences. To many, she is an intrepid painter of emotion, a symbol of political activism, and a cultural revolutionist.
Kahlo has been distinguished for her paintings that are rich with painful expressions of love and anguish; she acts as the spokesperson of a self-conscious universe. Her art produces a cosmic clarity that saves this universe from her own whirlwind of pain, illness, and betrayal. Kahlo’s personal struggles ultimately elevated her status as a feminist icon and greatly influenced her artistic persona.
Her paintings were often seen as challenging for her generation, as she fervently stood against the dominant norms regarding femininity, cultural identity, and government policy of her era. By making her body the subject of her paintings, she exalts in her imperfections and transforms them into her distinctive mark – a pungent and sudden affirmation of her being. Her aesthetic conception, which often contradicts dominant cultural beliefs regarding beauty, continues to fascinate and intrigue the audience, pushing our minds into a symphony of emotions that the artist was never wanting to hide.
They always thought I was a Surrealist, but I was not. I’ve never painted dreams. I painted my reality.
Observers of Kahlo’s work should expect to experience her radical perspective on life.
Kahlo’s reality manifests as being prone to cycles of anguish, freedom, passion, and brokenness, while her vibrant colors mirror her emotional conditions.
During her era it was not culturally appropriate to fully expose intimate situations such as breastfeeding, birth, or surgical operations in paintings. Despite this, Kahlo blossomed into the art world by making her own misfortunes and lived experiences her muse, conjuring striking (and absurd) scenes that have come to distinguish her as an artistic figure in communion with culture, community, and the inner self.
Kahlo cultivated her identity by breaking the canons of beauty, femininity, and political obedience upheld of her surrounding culture. She made her distinctive visual style a symbol of subversive behavior. Likewise, Kahlo clung to her pains, fears, and brokenness as a source of inspiration to proclaim her artistic message. She resiliently expressed a sensitive consciousness that is reflected through the personal details of her work. Her evocative color pallets and myriad of unique motifs gesture to the distinctive circumstances of her life.
Kahlo has become a symbol of feminism in art, and continues to inspire artists from across the globe to repurpose her image in new contexts.
Frida is synonymous with revolution, with novelty. Italian artist Stefano Bolcato was inspired to replicate Kahlo’s most significant paintings by replacing her figures with LEGO figurines, turning her oils on canvas into scenes of pop art fantasy. Bolcato brings a fresh perspective to Kahlo’s motifs, while simultaneously deconstructing and emphasizing the concepts behind her artistic persona.
In Palermo, Buenos Aires, Julián Campos Segovia, Jean Paul Jesses, and Juan Carlos Campos have created a mural that portrays the artist smoking a cigarette on a local street. The mural measures 9 meters in height and 7 meters in length, an appropriate size to justly depict Kahlo’s enormous personality. These artists have taken Kahlo into the streets as a symbol for public revolution.
David Beaulieu, founder of Today Is Art Day, has created an action figure of the painter, which features some of Kahlo’s distinctive symbols including the monkey, surrealist heart, parrot, and crown of roses (which even gives off a rosy scent!). The figure is accompanied by four artworks inspired by the artist herself and 10 fun facts about her life.
Kahlo, a strong symbol of freedom and rebellion, is the natural subject for English-based artist Bansky’s distinctive graffiti works. Banksy and Kahlo both dare to produce work that speaks to systemic problems within our world, such as violence and inequality.
Over 100 of Kahlo’s works will be on display at the MUDEC in Milan from February 1 through June 3.
The exhibition, titled “Oltre Il Mito”, shifts attention from the dark and more sensitive moments of Kahlo’s personal story, to focus exclusively on the artist’s unpublished paintings.
Curated in four sections – WOMEN, EARTH, POLITICS, PAIN – the exhibition aims to discover other concepts defined by Kahlo, in order to reassert her resilient character and to distance her image from the popularized fads of today’s consumer culture.
Now is your chance to experience Frida for yourself!