It brings me immense joy to present you with another ‘Artist of the Month’ blog post! I know it’s been a while but let the past be the past. We’re back now! If you have been following my Artist of the Month series, you know that I love artists who are unafraid to challenge societal restraints in order to deliver a noteworthy message. One artist that truly embodies this boldness is Frida Kahlo. Her work is often considered symbolic of Mexican indigenous culture, as well as a candid portrayal of the complex female experience. So it comes as no surprise that in recent years her iconography has come to be indicative of feminist and LGBTQ movements.
Kahlo’s oeuvre derived much of its influence from Mexican folk art. Her body of work is often said to have elements of “fantasy, naivety, and fascination with pain and death.” One aspect of her art that I’m particularly drawn to is her ability to depict the intersectionality of politics and art in a powerful way. In her painting, My Grandparents My Parents and I (see below), Kahlo celebrates her mixed background during the rise of Nazi Germany, when Hitler had forbidden interracial marriages. While I’m often left inquisitively confounded by Kahlo’s work, I truly commend how unapologetic she was about condemning the social injustices of her time. She was also labourously resilient in her work, despite battling several chronic illnesses, and she spent many years painting from a hospital bed. At the height of her artistic output, Kahlo was a true embodiment of female expression and self-awareness, and she’s an inspiration to all (women) who strive to defy conformity and relentlessly pursue their passions.
After writing this post, I was embarrassed to discover (going through the JTO archive) that Kahlo is the first woman to form part of my ‘Artist of the Month’ series. My own close-mindedness is partly to blame, but it also sheds light on the historical erasure of female artists in Art History. Kahlo was considered for a long time to be “Diego Rivera’s wife”, and it was too trying for society to allow her to step out of his shadow. With this new realisation, I hope my future ‘Artist of the Month’ posts can shed light on the many, many, women artists who have been overlooked and disregarded for their invaluable contributions to art.
Frida Kahlo, My Grandparents, My Parent, and I, 1936
Frida Kahlo, The Two Fridas, 1939
Frida Kahlo, The Wounded Deer, 1946
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, 1940
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Dr Eloesser, 1940