“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
She called herself a “daughter of the revolution”, and revolutionary she was. Happy birthday to this month’s Moxie Monthly, Frida Kahlo! An accomplished painter and outspoken activist, she fiercely defied gender roles, societal expectations, and colonialism in both her professional and private life.
Kahlo was always surrounded by sickness. After contracting polio at age six, she received a well-rounded education from her epileptic father, and the two of them bonded over living with disability. He kickstarted her interest in the arts and encouraged her to try out for sports despite her disability and cultural norms at the time. Ferociously rebellious and intelligent, she took up boxing and was one of 35 women accepted to the highly prestigious and newly co-ed National Preparatory School. Here, she began to develop her interest in social justice and the Mexican identity.
Although she had shown budding talent in the arts, she set out to be a doctor. She showed promise, getting good grades and devouring books. However, everything changed after she was impaled in a near-fatal bus accident. Bedridden, her dreams of becoming a doctor were shattered. But here, she began to paint.
Kahlo painted her truth, brazenly depicting sexuality, disability, miscarriage, abortion, and the female form. She drew inspiration heavily from Mexican folk art and was a part of the Mexicanidad movement, which celebrated Mexican identity.She began to dress in traditional Mexican clothing, favoring the style of the matriarchal indigenous society of Tehuantepec. At first, she was overshadowed by her husband Diego Rivera; publications were condescending and she was not known for much other than being his wife. However, her popularity grew. She became the first Mexican artist featured in the Louvre, she was featured in Vogue, and she inspired many artists and fashion designers. Although her health rapidly declined in her later years, she continued to paint, and even attended her last solo exhibition in her bed.
Throughout her life, Kahlo lived her truth at a time when norms were restrictive. She was openly bisexual and wore men’s suits, didn’t hide and even emphasized her mustache and unibrow. She tackled taboo subjects in her art, which was sometimes deemed too graphic for display. She was always defying colonialist ideals, dressing in traditionally Mexican clothing and celebrating the indigenous identity in her art and activism. For living so authentically and rebelliously, we salute you, Frida Kahlo! To wrap up, here are 5 fun facts about this revolutionary feminist:
Everything she did, she did with style. Kahlo decorated all her medical aids, from her prosthetic leg to her supportive corsets.
She loved her pets. Along with dogs, she owned a fawn, parrots, and spider monkeys, some of which were featured in her self portraits.
Her art was record-setting. A painting of hers sold for 8 million dollars - the highest auction price for any Latin American artist.
She took many famous female lovers. Among them, Georgia O'Keefe, Josephine Baker, actress, Dolores del Rio, and actress Paulette Goddard.
She was politically active ‘til the very end. Kahlo protested American intervention in Guatemala just 11 days before her death. Dedication!
Trend black people. Trend women. Trend Chinese people. Trend Indian people. Trend Native Americans. Trend Hispanics. Trend Israelis. Trend Muslims. Trend Japanese people. Trend all the people of color that my goddamn memory can’t remember right now because they fucking deserve. Especially right now. Our time is now.
Chicana feminist thought inhabits a proactive space that does not seek approval, acceptance, or intellectual legitimacy from exterior sources or domains… Writing without apology, sin vergünza/without shame, Chicana feminists employ a bold language and stance that does not anticipate or reproduce social codes and norms. Chicana feminist thought waits for no one.
Karen Mary Davalos, Sin Vergüenza: Chicana Feminist Theorizing