Thursday, May 28, 2015

Women We Love: Frida Kahlo

Frida as a magnet

Frida Kahlo is having a moment, according to the New York Times. Another moment. As the Times says, "She was a genius before she was a refrigerator magnet." It's true that as fashion icons go, we take Frida for granted. For one thing, she doesn't need a last name.

Also from the Times "... she was an ace manipulator of society and media nearly a century before social media came into existence." Stripping away her fabulous paintings tinged with pain, her tempestuous relationship with Diego Rivera and her ardent Communist beliefs, she dressed to make a statement. When she wore gorgeous folkloric Mexican outfits she did so without irony and as easily as we throw on a pair of jeans. She even donned men's clothes on occasion, and did that ever say something.

Frida's earlier moment was a long time coming. I wrote a college essay on the painter Diego Rivera back in the '60s. Why not Frida? She would have been far more interesting, but her work sat in a very neglected niche of Latin American folk artists. When the world suddenly discovered Frida late in the last century, she did become that refrigerator magnet, t-shirt and shopping bag. Hers had all the elements of a great story: tragedy, triumph, doomed romance, political intrigue, that unique appearance and yes, she sure could paint.

Two museums are showing off Frida this summer. Detroit's Institute of Arts has "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo" chronicling time spent there while Rivera painted a massive mural in tribute to Labor.  The NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has "Kahlo, Rivera and Mexican Modern Art". The cherry on this sundae is "Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life" at the New York Botanical Garden. The inspiration is Frida's Mexico City home, Casa Azul. I've been to Casa Azul; it's a magical place.

Casa Azul in Mexico City...
...and in the Bronx

A new book, "Frida Kahlo: The Gisele Freund Photographs" promises 100 rarely seen candid photos of Frida and Diego. As they both illustrated so well, their art was their life.

We're having another Bohemian fashion moment as well. That makes me happy as I love a bit of let's pretend. As we layer on the printed maxi skirts, embroidered peasant blouses and ethnic jewelry, it might be wise to remember that very fine line between homage and oh-my-gosh.

Here's to looking at you again, Frida


  1. I like your writing very much and was quite touched by reading about the times you sewed with your mother side by side (ironing board in the kitchen, etc.). That was very sweet. I love clothes too and I am enjoying your perspective.

  2. Thanks, Donna, and likewise your very thoughtful and expressive blog.