Over the past couple of months, I have been having an increased obsession with Frida Kahlo. The Frida exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum has fueled a surplus in her images being sold throughout London via clothing, pillowcases, books, and other paraphernalia. Since the spring, I have purchased two Frida shirts, two books, and a box set of posters. What is it about Frida that is so fascinating?
Making Her Self Up is the title of the exhibit. We know and love Frida for how she embraced her looks… the eyebrows, moustache, dark hair, culture. Her art work which usually contained images of herself is recognizable, and I feel she is one of the few women in the art world who was known as an icon. This was not just for her paintings, but how she presented herself. Digging a little deeper below the surface, she encompassed so much more.
Frida struggled with physical ailments such as a polio diagnosis in her youth, a horrendous traffic accident that kept her bed ridden for one year, numerous miscarriages, and eventually she had her foot amputated. Despite the struggles she physically faced in her life, she prevailed. In fact, her interest in art and creating self-portraits may have been ignited during that year of being bed ridden. Her mother did not want her to be alone, therefore she propped a mirror above her bed so she could always be aware of the company she had within herself.
Kahlo embraced all parts of her, the wounded and the blessed. The images in her artwork contains flashbacks to the tragedies that ensued in her life. The numerous affairs her husband had (which included sleeping with her sister), did not dissipate her sexuality. She had her share of affairs as well. But the love of Diego Rivera, her husband, stayed in her mind and thoughts. Initially as a wife to renowned muralist and artist Diego, she accompanied him to his work sites around the world.
Frida brought attention to the fashion her culture offered. The beautiful traditional clothing of the Mexican world was displayed throughout each city she graced. She wore long petticoats initially to hide her leg that was impacted by polio, but when she eventually ended up having her leg amputated, even her prosthetics were fashionable. The medical corsets were beautified. Frida would dress up at home, even if there were no visitors. She would adorn her body with necklaces, earrings, and flowers in her hair not for anyone else’s enjoyment but herself.
Eventually her art work began getting recognized in addition to the roles of being Diego’s wife and a fashion icon. The Surrealists wanted to claim her as their own, but she verbalized she wasn’t a surrealist. “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”
The reason Frida’s image is embraced by women throughout the world is not solely for her physical beauty. It is for what she represents: confidence, resilience, courage, and strength. Frida did not have an alter ego. She was her alter ego. It is no surprise the exhibit at Victoria & Albert Museum is a sold out hit. This is why her image is on numerous purses, tee shirts, pins, and socks. We admire her fury to be authentic, and live the totality of human existence. Frida lived it loudly for the world to see and we shout back generations later “yes!”
Although the exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum is sold out, you can gain entry by becoming a member. In addition, the exhibit has also been extended, please check the website for additional dates. The collection contains photographs, jewelry, artwork, belongings, medical corsets and clothing that were hidden for 50 years. This is the first time they are on display outside of Mexico City. If you are Frida fanatic like I am, this is a must.
“You deserve the best, the very best, because you are one of the few people in this lousy world who are honest to themselves, and that is the only thing that really counts.” – Frida Kahlo
Originally published at itonlytakesasmile.com