Lecture in 3 minutes
If I tell you FRIDA, there is a good chance that each of you will hear without me having to pronounce it : FRIDA KAHLO… pretty normal as she is the most famous female artist in history.
But why an artist known for her communist, feminist and anti-conformist positions ends up with her face printed on one of my cushions, on your neighbor’s T-shirt and on makeup boxes sold in the cosmetics store next door? How would she react seeing her image used as a brand ?
Photo : MNBAQ, Idra Labrie
AN ARTIST WITH A TRAGICO-ROMANTIC DESTINY
Frida led a more hectic life than many heroines of novels. First diagnosed with polio at the age of 6, which led to a deformation of the leg, at the age of 18, she is victim of a bus accident from which she comes out seriously injured.
To this physical pain, we have to add sentimental sufferings: those from passionate love. Madly in love with her husband Diego Rivera, Frida is forced to endure his infidelities. She eventually emancipates herself from it and claims extra-marital relations on her side too, particularly with women.
Henry Ford Hospital, 1932, oil on canvas
PROVOCATION AND THIRST FOR JUSTICE.
In art as in life, Frida Kahlo plays with intelligence to transgress the rules.
Although she came from a bourgeois family, she nevertheless joined the Communist Party and fought for the emancipation of women.
On the one hand, she paints herself in men’s clothes in a traditionalist Mexico, on the other, she wears traditional Mexican dresses in the middle of New York.
Her art deals with subjects that was taboo : infertility, abortion, sexuality, physical violence and mental suffering… and all this from a feminine point of view.
FRIDA KAHLO: INFLUENCER BEFORE INSTAGRAM.
YES, Frida Kahlo was an inspiring and courageous woman, as well as a talented artist...but our history is filled with other equally inspiring women who have be ignored and forgotten. So why did Frida Kahlo become so famous ?
If her political commitment and her private life were not enough to make Frida Kahlo an icon, her sense of storytelling has enrolled her in history.
HATE ME, LOVE ME BUT ABOVE ALL LOOK AT ME
If today famous people know how to create the buzz and make people talk about them, they have a lot to learn from the Mexican artist.
When she arrives in New York in 193, her style clashes : Frida knows how to be noticed.
The message of her traditional outfits goes against New York’s futuristic tendencies. Also, her ferocious sensuality, her androgynous face and assumed facial hair go against a more polished American vision of femininity.
If her choices are a way to highlight her values, it is also an effective way to create her own visual signature. From now, the artist’s face is as known as her paintings.
Photo : Nickolas Muray ( 1946, 1939, 1939)
Like the most popular Instagram influencers, Frida Kahlo carefully staged her life. As her father was a photographer, little Frida learned at a very young age how to pose and never ceased to be surrounded by cameras, even on her deathbed. From Mexico to New York, she surrounds herself with the most famous photographers of the time. Her presence is strong and the staging, whether in her studio, in her house or anywhere is all neat and thoughtful.
MYSTERIOUS…50 YEARS AFTER HER DEATH
Do you know these influencers who make you wait for days, even months to release a movie, a clip or a new product? These millennials can learn from Frida Kahlo.
On December 8, 2004, we discovered the existence of two bathrooms sealed by order of Diego Rivera, at the death of Frida Kahlo, in 1954. The couple’s heirs knew about it. But the secret was well-kept, for half a century!
The discoveries of what the newspapers will called the «secret rooms» have open the doors to new exhibitions, researches and books providing us new sources of information to better understand the life of Frida Kahlo...and start a new buzz around her.
Frida Kahlo was an amazing artist. The strength of her ideals, her artistic talent, AND her ability to document her life made her the icon that she is today . If her image appeals to our generation, it is also because she used the same techniques to make her reputation as our current influencers almost a century before the social media era.
I believe that Frida Kahlo understood that ss a woman artist, she must be recognized by other artists during her lifetime. But It also required a complete archive of her artistic production and her life to be able to speak about her. She carefully collected all these data throughout her life. Her strategy no doubt worked beyond her expectations!
And you, do you have a piece of Frida Kahlo at home?