The Surreal Life of Frida Kahlo

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The Surreal Life of Frida Kahlo

“They thought I was surrealist. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” – Frida Kahlo

Surrealism was inspired by the burgeoning science of psychology, especially its concept that the mind was made up of both conscious and subconscious parts. Surrealism involved freeing the unconscious realm of dreams and neurosis by combining images from the actual world and arranging them in such way that “worked against the logical and rational processes of making meaning.” (Sturken and Martin 463) The Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo was described as a self-invented Surrealist when her work was first introduced in a Western exhibition. However, the images presented in her paintings were too closely connected to the painful and emotional realities she faced in her own personal life to qualify as Surrealist. She refused for her work to be categorized under any defined terms, asserting that she painted not dreams but her own reality. On the surface, Kahlo’s life seemed full of color and excitement. She was acknowledged as a prominent and influential painter when few female artists were taken seriously by the mostly Western and male dominated art world. But under the surface, Kahlo’s life was far from pleasurable and consisted of numerous struggles and trials of pain. Without benefits of knowing psychology or being a member of the Surrealist community, Frida Kahlo’s emotional work explored the repressed images, memories, and symbols of her own unconscious mind.

In her one her most well known paintings, Two Fridas, her inner turmoil caused by her marriage and her conflicted affair with Mexico and the Western world are explored. The painting was completed after her divorce to Diego Rivera, another Mexican artist that had a great influence in her life. In the painting, two representations of Kahlo sit side by side with their hands joined in a stiff clasped with open hearts displayed outside of their bodies. The Frida on the right, the...
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