Australian Fine Artist

Frida Kahlo

As part of our class discussing the directions for our arts practices we viewed a video about Frida Kahlo.

I had seen some of her work and knew a little bit about her. That was as far as it went as her style is not my preference (again) so I have tended to look at the work of a lot of other artists rather than hers.

During the video we were told about Frida’s family background and growing up in Mexico. Her family history and cultural influences it seems had a lot to do with not only life choices but also her art.

As a young woman Frida was involved in an horrific accident which had impact on the rest of her life. It left her unable to have children so during her life she lost or had to terminate three pregnancies that we know of.

Frida had a close relationship with her father, so I am not sure how much that had to do with her choice of husband. Along with his standing as one of the foremost artists in Mexico he was a much older man who introduced her to art in new ways and the relationship allowed her to pursue her art in any way she desired. The down side was that the marriage was rocky, with affairs and conflict on both sides. They divorced at one stage only to remarry in about a year. I am not sure whether it was so much for love as the need for a home and steady income on her part and how that came into the mix, although the two from the outside at least seem to have been devoted at least as friends and companions.

As far as her art is concerned, Frida painted over 70 self portraits. Along the way she painted portraits of other people and some other subjects but it is her self portraits that many people remember the best. I think that being married to a successful artist who was probably bringing in all the money to support them was the reason she was able to and had the time to explore painting in this manner. She became popular and gained interest overseas only later in her career.

Accepted into the Surrealists movement as one of their own, Frida, by exploring symbolism in her paintings had attracted their attention even though to her she was painting her reality rather than imaginings. Her journals are full of thoughts and feelings which are just as raw and sometimes confronting as her paintings.

Even when back in hospital and with failing health she continued to paint. Even if you don’t like her style or choice of subject matter, you can’t help admiring a woman whose love of her art and dedication to it was so strong.

Her symbiotic relationship with her husband I think was what enabled her to devote her life to her art. She had no children so her art, her pets and her garden took their place, as well as doting over her spouse and her nieces and nephews. Each received what they needed from the relationship and were able to peruse their seeming first love, which was their art.

Reactions to the Video by the Class

Gut Reaction to the story

  1. She portrayed a woman in self destructive mode
  2. Her art was confronting
  3. Her art was graphic
  4. Raw
  5. Gut Wrenching
  6. Stark
  7. Private
  8. Unhindered
  9. Honest
  10. Vulnerable
  11. Not Subtle
  12. A cathartic (providing psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions) experience

Analytical Reaction to the Story

  1. A story of traditional vs modern values
  2. Her husband was the commercial part of the marriage bringing in the majority of revenue
  3. She only became successful later in her career

What is the Value to the Broader Society of Her Work?

  1. She is inspirational as her story allows us to talk a bout and explore a wider range of subjects
  2. She identified the difference between traditional and modern values
  3. She showed that female artists can be significant in subject matter and not paint a “pretty picture”
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