Monday, October 17, 2011

LGBT History Month: Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo is a renowned Mexican painter, noted for her vibrant colors as well as nationalist and feminist themes. Her paintings have commanded higher prices than any other female artist. Born in Mexico, Kahlo was the third of Matilda and Guillermo’s four daughters. When she was 15, she was sent to the most prestigious national preparatory school. At age 18, she was in a trolley accident that left her with permanent pain and health problems. This accident crippled her, led to over 30 surgeries, and rendered her unable to bear children. Kahlo’s pain is reflected in her works. In 1929, she married the famous painter and communist Diego Rivera. Twenty years her senior and a noted muralist, Rivera’s relationship with Kahlo was a mixture of passion and strife. While they had much in common, Rivera was frequently unfaithful. Kahlo had a series of affairs with men and women. They divorced in early 1940, but remarried later that year. Her genius as an artist went unrecognized until she was offered a show in New York. It was wildly successful and led to shows in Paris and other international cities. Her work is celebrated for its Mexican folk art traditions, use of vivid colors, and its subject matter, including self-portraits. Her work has been associated with surrealism, though Kahlo herself renounced the genre saying, “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” In 1944, her health began to rapidly deteriorate. In 1950, she was hospitalized for a year. When Kahlo finally received her first solo show in Mexico, she had to be carried to the opening in bed. After her death, her work continued to grow in popularity. Kahlo’s paintings have been displayed in prestigious international shows, including a solo exhibit that celebrated the 100th anniversary of her birth. In 2001, her face graced a U.S. postage stamp. In 2002, her life was made into the Academy Award-winning movie “Frida.”