June 21, 2011

LGBTQ Female Role Models - Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)


Hey! So I've been wanting to write on the blog
about this woman for a really long time, but up until this point I've been trying to only focus on living LGBTQ female role models. But I think I'm going to break my own rule and write about Frida, simply because she's SUCH an awesome queer female role model and she was absolutely the woman I wanted to write about this week on the blog.

I have to start this post off with a confession. I actually have an enormous poster of Frida Kahlo in my dorm room, but I keep it on the back door of the closet (ironic) because it's really intense [See photo to the left, below-"Pensando en la muerte (Thinking of Death)"-that's the one I have!]. But I love her! Also, if you haven't seen the movie Frida, I would really recommend it! I had been introduced to Frida Kahlo in elementary school in Arizona, but that movie really helped me get a clearer picture of who the artist was and why she's such a strong woman.

Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico City (D.F.) in 1907, and just a few years later at the age of 6 she contracted polio, which "began a life marked by physical suffering". At the age of 15 she entered Mexico's oldest high school, (which was the first Mexican school to accept women, and had just begun to do so ) La Escuela Nacional Preparatoria, where she met Diego Rivera (her future husband) for the first time.

On September 17th, 1925, there would be an event that would mark Kahlo's for the rest of her life-physically, mentally, and in everyway possible. While riding on a bus, there was a collision with a street trolley, and a metal pole inserted her body, shattering her spine into various pieces, and also breaking her ribs and pelvic. The accident left Kahlo in a full-body cast, infertile, and bed-ridden for months.

During her painful recovery, Frida used painting as a way to pass the time and help cure boredom. In 1926 she painted her first self-portrait; she often painted herself in bed, or to express her emotional states at the time: "I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality", she said.

In 1929 she met fellow Mexican painter, Diego Rivera
again and they married within the year. Throughout her life, Frida had affairs with both men (including Leon Trostky) and women (Dolores del Rio, Paulette Goddard, Maria Felix, & Josephine Baker). She identified openly as a bisexual woman, while preferring men, and she sometimes chose to dress in drag. Her painting "Two Nudes in a Forest" clearly depicts a romantic interaction between two women-[right]. (Rivera apparently knew of and accepted her relationships with women during their marriage, but her male partners made him jealous.) Frida later confronted the emotional pain of watching her husband have an affair with her sister, Cristina, after which she divorced Diego Rivera in Nov 1939; they remarried Dec. 1940.

One of the reasons I love Frida Kahlo is because she was an unbashedly confident feminist and queer woman, converting into a national and international icon for the rights of women, those working towards socialism, indigenous communities of Mexico and others. Frida's powerful ability to represent marginalized topics in her artwork I think relates to others because she can empathize with those suffering struggle via own physical and emotional strife throughout her life [Right-"Los dos Fridas" (Both Frida's).]. Frida didn't hesitate to confront difficult topics in her paintings; in one painting she even expressed her pain after a miscarriage.

Today Frida has made an international impact. She is known for being the first Hispanic woman on a U.S. poststamp, her works today are consistently auctioned off at the highest prices of any Mexican artist, and she was the first 20th-century Mexican artist to be displayed in the Louvre.

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