Thursday, April 1, 2010

Frida Kahlo - Feminist Artist

Frida Kahlo is another feminist artist who is very well known in the feminist movement. She was born in Mexico in 1907 and worked until her death in 1954. The style she uses is known as Surrealism.
Her story is so famous, it may even out shadow her own artwork. When she was 6 years old, she contracted polio which left one leg shorter than the other. The main event that changed her life was in 1925 when she was in a bus accident. She had injuries to her right leg, pelvis, and she could no longer have children. She also had to have many surgeries on her back which left her constantly in pain. To overcome this, she painted pictures of her suffering and of herself. (Lucie-Smith, 2010)

Chadwick states: "...Kahlo's The Broken Column (1944)... reinforces the woman artist's use of the mirror to assert the duality of being, the self as observer and observed. ... Kahlo used painting as a means of exploring the reality of her own body as her consciousness of its vulnerability; in many cases the reality dissolves into a duality, exterior evidence versus interior perception of that reality." (Chadwick, 2007)

The Broken Column (right) clearly shows Kahlo dealing with her pain. It may be hard to see in this picture, but Kahlo painted herself in the back brace that he had to wear and with nails embedded all over her body. The column represent her broken back that she received from the bus accident.
Not only does she deal with pain, but she also deals with self image. She's constantly looking at herself through her self portraits.

She's stated, "I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration." (Kahlo, 2007)

Another part to her story is that she had suffered a miscarriage. She, of course, turned to painting to deal with her suffering. This happened in 1932 while her husband, Diego Rivera (11 years her senior), was painting murals in Detroit. He later said, "Frida began work on a series of masterpieces which has no precedent in the history of art - paintings which exalted the feminine qualities of endurance of truth, reality, cruelty, and suffering. Never before had a woman put such agonized poetry on canvas as Frida did at this time in Detroit." (Mencimer, 2002)
The painting on the right is titled My Miscarriage in Detroit and was done in 1932. You can see how it affected her and how she expressed these feelings. Even though she was told she could no longer have children, she still wanted to be a mother.

Some have felt that Kahlo's work represents the quality of the "quietly suffering female" instead of any feminist empowerment views. "Kahlo painted herself as the quietly suffering female. In every possible sense, the mass-culture Kahlo embodies that now-poisonous term: victim-hood. She was the victim of patriarchal culture, victim of an unfaithful husband, and simply the victim of a horrific accident. But that's probably one reason why she's so popular."(Mencimer, 2002)
I must say I believe the opposite. Kahlo is one of my favourite artists and when I look at her work I see an empowering picture. I see a strong woman who has no other way of dealing with her pain other than painting it. "She dramatized the pain in her paintings, while carefully cultivating a self-image as a 'heroic sufferer.'" (Mencimer, 2002)

Chadwick, Whitney. Women, Art, and Society. 4th. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson World of Art, 2007. 315. Print.

Kahlo, Frida. "The Quotations Page." Quotations by Author. The Quotations Page, 2007. Web. 1 Apr 2010.

Lucie-Smith, Edward. "The Artchive." Frida Kahlo. The Artchive, 2010. Web. 1 Apr 2010.

Mencimer, Stephanie. "Washington Monthly." The Trouble with Frida Kahlo. Washington Monthly, 6/2002. Web. 1 Apr 2010.


  1. These three paintings all have one very important thing in common, a woman who is suffering. The first painting is of her with a broken Column that happened from a bus accident. That accident was very hard for her because it was probably hard for her to stay still and paint. The second one shows a lot of emotion as she tightly grabs her stomach as all of these things painted are happening to her. This is a very hard thing to cope with because no mother wants to have to go through such a pain as losing her child. In her face you see pain, but she always seems to add a little bit of calmness to her facial expressions. The last photo is one of my favorite pieces from Kahlo because on one side you see that suffering woman deep inside, but on the outside you see that she overcame every obstacle in her life and is not letting her past affect her. She defiantly uses paining as therapy to help her deal with the pain.

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