Case Study 3: “Identity”
Frida Kahlo (Personal Identity)
1. Discuss the symbolism in Kahlo’s work and explore how it often recalls her Mexican culture as well as her Catholic upbringing.
Frida’s Mexican heritage of graphic naivety is supposed in her art. Growing up in a time of socialist revolution, Frida had been influenced by many Mexican artists. Their style, allegorical and narrative, tells stories of Mexican life, the history of Mexico and revolutionary circumstances of the people. Frida’s art reflects this social narrative by creating narrative within her work, not necessarily with the idea of socialism but the documentation of her life and her struggles. Of Catholic upbringing Frida often represented herself as the single most important attraction and symbolic image in the paintings. Like Catholic paintings of Mary mother of Jesus, Frida is always central and always has a dull expression. Frida like Mary is often surrounded by symbolism. Unlike Mary however Frida painted monkeys to appear as a symbol of protection; though contrastingly in Mexican culture monkeys are often a symbol of lust and desire; a possible comment on Frida’s documented adultery behavior. Frida’s intention was to juxtapose the purity of the mother of god. Plants in a flat collage style often surround Mary, similar to Frida’s self-portraits, which lack perspective. The importance of Mary in Mexican Catholicism is as a mother and a mother that has sacrificed. In Frida’s paintings it seems that the main locality and stern loss on her face mimics Catholic representations of the mother either consciously or unconsciously. Kahlo's works represent a mixture of cultural and artistic traditions. Kahlo's works thus represent a mixture of cultural and artistic traditions. The Pre-Columbian art of the Aztec is mixed with the traditional Mexican Catholic art, especially images of the Passion of Christ. Traditional religious imagery focused on the Instruments of the Passion and the wounds of Christ. In Self Portrait with the thorn necklace and hummingbird, Kahlo mixes indigenous Aztec tradition with Christian imagery. ‘The thorn necklace echoes Christ's Crown of Thorns while at the same echoes Aztec practices where priests performed self-mutilation with agave thorns and stingray spines. The dead hummingbird is sacred to the chief god of Tenochtitlan, Huitzilopichtli, the god of sun and of war.’
2. Justify how the self-portrait form is used by Kahlo as a means of Understanding self. How has she used this autobiographical device as a means if finding her pain, life, experiences and heightened emotions. Refer to her working style and practice
Frida's paintings, especially her self-portraits, capture her own personal emotions and feelings about events/crisis in her life: her physical condition, her inability to have children, her philosophy of nature, life and most importantly her turbulent relationship with Diego. As a Mexican female artist in the 20th century, Frida’s themes expressed in her artworks were considered highly explicit at the time. She overcame many difficult events including polio, long recovery from a serious car accident, two failed marriages, and several miscarriages some having a direct influence on her art. She used these experiences, combined with Mexican and Native American cultural and stylistic influences, to create highly personal paintings. Kahlo used personal symbolism mixed with Surrealism to express her suffering and agony through her work. A viewer might classify her paintings as Surrealism, but she considered her art to be realistic. To the untrained eye, most of Frida's self-portraits look like just another self-portrait. But, within her paintings are clues that reveal her inner emotions and thoughts. Her facial expressions in her self-portraits are, for the most part, emotionless and don't reveal her true mood. Much of her subject matter was autobiographical, and the fact that she painted her self with...
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