Thursday, June 7, 2012

Formative Frida

Okay before you click away while groaning “not Frida Kahlo again. I’m so over Frida Kahlo...” Just wait! This isn’t the blog post where I write a reverential treatise to St. Frida, the Martyr of Mexico. I promise.

This is how it was. I was sixteen. My older sister Kate was studying art. She looked me up and down, and said, “You look like a surrealist.”

Why? With over large baggy shorts, belted, a mauve 1950’s floral blouse made from fabric reminiscent of shower curtains, strings and strings of beads, patterned tights and large boots,(what was I thinking???)I guess she had a point. For my birthday she handed me this book.

At that time, I was suffering a post viral chronic fatigue syndrome and more often than not, was in pain. I was an intense teenager with darkness and brightness jostling for the upper place in my identity. How could I not fall in love with this tiny but indomitable creative fire cracker? And I even have the same birthday as Frida Kahlo.
Over the years, the ubiquitous use of Frida Kahlo’s self portraits and images dismayed me. I used to feel the heat rise in my chest and blush of indignation colour my cheeks when I saw Frida’s face displayed on everything from home wares to fashion items. Like a secret exposed in public. 

Those paintings are so personal and heart wrenching and it seemed criminal for them to be commandeered, reproduced and enlarged and plastered over anything.

It is important to remember that Frida Kahlo was a painter of great skill. Her paintings are small and meticulously detailed. Look how small the painting above is and the incredible detail as you can see on the right.

At the National Gallery in 2001 to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition (thanks Phil for the photo!)
The paintings are introspective and powerful. They are mesmerising.  I went to see the “ Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera & Mexican Modernism” exhibition in 2001 at the National Gallery in Canberra. 

Looking at her paintings was like a punch in the guts.

So herein lies my dilemma. I have now created the re-sew-cool Little Frida Headband and need to do the product art work. What do I do for the cover? Do I draw a Frida Kahlo?
While I can now see the distinction between honouring her work, postmodern reworking of her art, inspiration drawn from her creativity and the blatant commercialisation of her image, my sixteen year old self would have a fit if I plastered Frida's face on a product. Mind you, my sixteen year old self was an idiot. But still - what do I put on the cover artwork? Any suggestions???


  1. A Frida inspired pattern? Feature her name instead of her image, but make it really very decorative? Just wanted to say I really enjoy your posts!

  2. Thanks Melita! I'm going to take your advice. Kahlo-inspired decorative work with the Frida name. Perfect and I won't feel like a sell out!

  3. Or use a photo of Frida and hand tint it.

    1. Thanks Hazel. I'm experimenting with that suggestion. Even tried using a photo of Frida as a child and photoshopping in the felt head band....I'm slow but we'll see!!!

  4. Awesome! You are so creative and your model is precious.