One of the most recognized artists of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo’s body of work continues to resonate with audiences today. Kahlo’s unique painting style reflects both the culture of her native Mexico and contemporary artistic trends of her time. Her work directly drew from all aspects of her turbulent and yet exceptional life, from her complex marriage to the famed muralist, Diego Rivera, to complications surrounding childbirth, and the life-long pain and difficulties stemming from injuries she sustained in a bus accident at the age of 18. Frida Kahlo was also a cultural icon, recognized by her elaborate Tehuana clothing, stunning jewelry and hairstyles adorned with flowers – all of which allowed her to assert her Mexicanidad influenced by traditional Mexican culture. Kahlo was a contemporary of, and celebrated by, many of the most notable cultural figures of the 20th century including Lola Álvarez Bravo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Josée Clemente Orozco, André Breton, Pablo Picasso, and Marcel Duchamp. Kahlo lived an outspoken life; her artwork, politics and relationships all existed in opposition to the cultural norms and expectations and she was, in many ways, ahead of her time. It is for this reason that she continues to be such an inspirational and relevant artist today, drawing attention from diverse audiences around the world. (Cleve Carney Museum of Art, Chicago)
Who would fly to Chicago just to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit? I was actually in Mexico City, planning to see her museum a few years back. But a severe case of altitude sickness kept me bed ridden for several days, so I missed it. Truthfully, I am also here in Chicago to see the immersive van Gogh light show. But I have been known to fly in for certain events. I flew to LA a few years back for a van Gogh exhibit at LACMA.
More from the museum: At the time of her death in 1954 (born 1907), Frida Kahlo was widely known and respected within artistic circles in Mexico and abroad, but it was often in context of her relationship with Diego Rivera. In the decades following her death, Frida’s Kahlo’s artwork grew in popularity and in the 1970’s her work and story gained greater attention coinciding with the growing feminist movement and international interest in Mexican arts and culture. In 1978, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago held Kahlo’s first major U.S. retrospective consisting of work from the Dolores Olmedo collection, and in 1983, author, Hayden Herrera published the wildly successful biography of Frida Kahlo. As the story of her life reached a broader and more extensive audience Kahlo’s popularity intensified.
When I first saw a Frida, I can tell you that it was not love at first sight. But over the last decade, I have grown to really enjoy and appreciate her work. She is a truth teller for her country. Every country needs one!
I love this description of her identity: Her defiance of gender stereotypes, direct depictions of the female experience, and fierce refusal to identify as a victim despite experiencing an overwhelming amount of suffering, has firmly secured her status as a feminist heroine. In the decades following her death, Kahlo’s artwork grew in popularity. By the 1970’s her work and story gained greater attention coinciding with the growing feminist movement.
Over the years, Frida Kahlo’s life has been the subject of numerous films, plays, and books. Her image is seen on murals, in fashion, and even everyday objects such as socks and coffee mugs. However, the honesty and strength found in her work is what continues to energize her legacy. She remains a powerful cultural icon and a leader to many, including the LGBTQIA and Latinx communities.
I hope you enjoy Frida as much as I do.