All 38 entries tagged Mexico
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March 18, 2010
Frida Kahlo – Self Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky
Writing about web page http://www.nmwa.org/
Here is a photo from my visit at the wonderful National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC. Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait dedicated to Trotsky stands alongside a sculpture by Barbara Hepworth and other wonderful works by women artists:
For more entries on Kahlo, see this link .
February 14, 2007
Frida Kahlo's Masquerade
“For Frida Kahlo beauty was inextricably bound up with masquerade. In her self-portraits [...], whatever the degree of pain implied, by tears or wounds, her face remains severe and expressionless with an unflinching gaze. At the same time the mask-like face is surrounded by luxuriant growths, accoutrements, ornaments and familiars – a monkey, a doll, a hairless dog. The ornament borders on fetishism, as does all masquerade, but the imaginary look is that of self-regard, therefore a feminine, non-male and narcissistic look. There is neither coyness nor cruelty, none of the nuance necessary to the male eroticization of the female look. The masquerade serves the purpose of displacement from a traumatic childhood of the subject herself, ever-remembered, ever-repeated.
“Throughout Kahlo’s work there is a particular fetishization of nature, an imagery of fecundity and luxuriant generation which is clearly the defence against her knowledge of her own barrenness, one of the products of her childhood accident. Veins, fronds and vines often merge in the body itself. There are three modes of self portraiture: the body damaged, the body  masked and ornamented, the body twined and enmeshed with plants. In some paintings even the rays of the sun are incorporated in the web. Fruit in still lifes become part of the body, flesh-like, or skulls with vacant eyes. It is as though in compensation for her barrenness, and a defence against trauma, are condensed in pullulating images of cosmic and natural vitality sometimes counterposed with images of barrenness itself, of lava rock and broken ligneous forms.
“In a sense, nature is being turned into a complex of signs. Similarly the body itself becomes a bearer of signs, some legible, some esoteric. Masquerade becomes a mode of inscription, by which the trauma of injury and its effects are written negatively in metaphor. It is as if the intensity of the trauma brings with it a need to transfer the body from the register of image to that of pictography. The faces are read as masks, and ornaments as emblems and attributes. The discourse of the body is itself inscribed with a kind of codex of nature and cosmos, in which sun and moon, plant and animal, are pictograms. At the same time this pictographic effect de-eroticizes the imagery.” (157-158)
Mulvey, Laura and Peter Wollen. ‘Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti’. Art in Modern Culture: an Anthology of Critical Texts. Ed. Francis Franscina and Jonathan Harris. London: Phaidon, 1992. 145 – 159.
Kahlo and Religious Icons
Lowe notes that Kahlo often uses the ex-voto, a representation of a supernatural event as a means of giving thanks to God:
The ex-voto mixes fact and fantasy, depicting the image of divine intervention to commemorate the miraculous recovery from a sickness or accident. It pictures two registers of reality: the earthly – an incident recorded with journalistic verity – and the divine, in the form of a patron saint shown floating above the victim. This fusion of the real and imaginary was enormously appealing to Kahlo, and it was this aspect of the ex-voto that she appropriated for her work. (61)
Kahlo also uses retablos of figures such as the Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows). Lowe notes that the Mater Dolorosa was thought, ‘ to guard against sorrow or pain, or at the hour of death’ (61). Lowe goes as far as to say that she thinks that Kahlo, ‘identified with the Mtaer Dolorosa, who is often depicted shedding tears of sorrow for her lost son’ (61)
Kahlo' s My Birth and Tlazolteotl
Kahlo’s painting My Birth is particularly shocking in its cultural context, because it pictures Kahlo’s grown adult head emerging from the vagina of a woman whose face is covered by a sheet, a traditional gesture of grief or shame. Kahlo is literally situated as being born from a Chingada, a mother broken open, her legs splayed wide for all to see. (Brigley Thompson 2009: 204).
Brigley Thompson, Zoë (2009) ‘The Wound and the Mask: Rape, Recovery and Poetry in Pascale Petit’s The Wounded Deer: Fourteen Poems After Frida Kahlo’, Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives: Violence and Violation. London and New York: Routledge, 200-216.
For more entries on Frida Kahlo see this link .
Kahlo and the Soldaderas
Lowe notes that above all women have had problems in painting portraits. She notes: ‘Women artists who paint self-portraits have had to overcome an already given meaning – the equation of female self-reflection with vanity’ (58). Turning to the paintings by Kahlo, Lowe notes that her ‘construction of self’ is, ‘complex and astonishingly straightforward: without a hint of self-pity or sentimentality, Kahlo constructs her dreams, fears, passions, and pain with a forthrightness that defies social and artistic restrictions’ (58).
Interestingly, Lowe draws attention to a painting by Kahlo from 1927 entitled Pancho Villa and Adelita. Adelita of course refers to an old folk song about soldaderas. During the Mexican Revolution, soldaderas were the women who travelled with the soldiers sometimes to care for them, other times to fight with them and occasionally to intellectualise on the progress of the war. Lowe explains that the song, ‘is sung from the point of view of a sergeant who sings of his passion for his beloved, of his suffering heart, and of her fear of his dying in battle’, and the sergeant, ‘entreats Adelita to bury his remains in the sierra and weep for him should he perish’ (59). According to Lowe, the song is about ‘mutual devotion’ as well as dedication to the revolution (59). Lowe believes that in Pancho Villa and Adelita, Kahlo wants to be associated with Adelita as a specific kind of Mexican womanhood and representatives of a militaristic femininity. In her political life, Kahlo was a member of the Communist Youth League, perhaps in an effort to come closer to the role of soldadera.
You can see this really bizarre version of Adelita here that i found on UTube. King Bob tries to sing in Spanish and can’t keep up, but it gives you an idea of how the song goes.
The lyrics go something like this:
En una alta serranía, una tropa acampada, una moza los seguía Locamente enamorada popular entre la tropa era Adelita: la mujer que al sargento le gustaba porque además de ser valiente era bonita y felizmente para todos trabajaba. Y se oía que gritaba aquél que tanto le gustaba: “Y si Adelita fuera mi novia, y si Adelita fuera mi mujer, le compraría un vestido de seda, la llevaría a bailar al cuartel. Y si Adelita se fuera con otro, la seguiría por tierra y por mar; si por mar en un buque de guerra, si por tierra en un tren militar”.
February 13, 2007
Malka Drucker on Frida Kahlo
The nightmarish accident was only the beginning of a lifelong battle with perations, crude corsets, infections, amputation, and eventually death. It was also the beginning of a remarkable series of paintings about pain and femininity, which sometimes became one and the same. In her art she reinvented herself freely again and again as saint, goddess, man, deer. If the purpose of art is to provide what life cannot, then maybe these stoic impersonations were ultimately a solution to pain. (Drucker, x)
Mexican culture accepts, even embraces, the magical or surreal. Life and death are closely linked in agricultural societies; fresh green shoots are part of the dying tree from which they emerge, so death, therefore, is not ugly. (Drucker, 25).
Frida who had always loved Dia de los Muertos, now embraced its customs for new purposes. She didn’t want death, or her fear of it, to take away her laughter or joy in life, so she dressed cardboard skeletons in her clothes, cal;led death by insulting nicknames, and had a skull painted with her name on it, all in an effort to defy suffering and death. Giant Judas [...] figures also took on fresh meaning for Frida. The huge papier-mâché puppets, lined with fireworks, usually in the form of the devil or skeleton to represent sin and death, are part of the celebration of Saturday of Glory, which falls on the Saturday before Easter. As despised enemies the figures are exploded in the town square to boisterous cheers, and in the year following her accident, Frida cheered loudest of all (29)
November 21, 2006
The Origin of The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo
Writing about web page http://academic.reed.edu/spanish/courses/Spanish-210/Frida/Frida-TheTwoFridas.html
ORIGIN OF THE TWO FRIDAS
I must have been six years old when I had an intense experience of an imaginary friendship with a little girl .. roughly my own age. On the window of my old room, facing Allende Street, I used to breathe on one of the top panes. And with my finger I would draw
Through that “door” I would come out, in my imagination, and hurriedly with immense happiness, I would cross all the field I could see until I reached… (245)
a dairy store called PINZON… Through the “O” in PINZON I entered and descended impetuously to the entrails of the earth, where “my imaginary friend” always waited for me. I don’t remember her appearance or her color [sic]. But I do remember her joyfulness – she laughed a lot. Soundlessly. She was agile and danced as if she were weightless. I followed her in every movement and while she danced, I told her my secret problems, Which ones? I can’t remember. But…
from my voice she knew all about my affairs. When I came back to the window, I would enter through the same door I had drawn on the glass. When? How long had I been with “her”? I don’t know. It could have been a second or thousands of years… I was happy. I would erase the “door” with my hand and it would “disappear”. I ran with my secret and my joy to the farthest corner of the patio of my house, and always to the same place, under a cedron tree, I would shout and laugh Amazed to be… (246)
Alone with my great happiness with the very vivid memory of the little girl. It has been 34 years since I lived that magical friendship and every time I remember it it comes alive and grows more and more inside my world.
PINZON, 1950. Frida Kahlo. (247)
Letter to Diego Rivera from Frida Kahlo
Truth is, so great, that I wouldn’t like to speak, or sleep, or love.
To feel myself trapped, with no fear of blood, outside time and magic, within your own fear, and your anguish, and within the very beating of your heart.
All this madness if I asked it of you, I know, in your silence, there would be only confusion.
I ask you for violence, in the nonsense, and you, you give me grace, your light and your warmth.
I’d like to paint you, but there are no colors [sic], because there are so many, in my confusion, the tangible form of my great love.
Frida Kahlo. The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait. Trans,. Sarah M. Lowe. London: Bloomsbury, 1995. 205/42.
Extracts from the Diary of Frida Kahlo
I was lying – flaccid – running – revelry / without story reason / great haste mirrorlike / cardboard doll (204)
My skirts with their lace flounces and the antique blouse I always wore (...) paint the absent portrait of only one person. (209)
I don’t know what my mocking dream thinks. The ink, the stain. the shape. the color (sic). I’m a bird. I’m everything. without any more confusion. All the bells. the rules. the lands. the big grove. the greatest tenderness. the immense tide. grabage. water jar, cardboard cards. dice digits duets vain hope of constructing the cloths, the kings. so silly.my nails. the thread and the hair. the bantering nerve I’m going with myself. (213)
Only one mountain can know the core of another mountain. (216)
The day, or the hour, or the minute that I lived would be mine and everyone else’s (242).
ourselves – / variety of the one / incapable of escap- / ing to the two – to the three – / to the usual – to return to the one . / Yet not the _ sum_ / (sometimes called God (...)) (250).
I have been sick for a year now. Seven operations on my spinal column. Doctor Farill saved me. He brought me back the joy of life. I am still in a wheelchair, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to walk again soon. I have a plaster corset even though it is a frightful nuisance, it helps my spine. I don’t feel any pain. Only this … bloody tiredness, and naturally, quite often despair. A despair which no words can describe. I’m still eager to live. I’ve started to paint again. (252)
The quiet life.. / giver of worlds.. / Wounded deer / Tehuanas / Lightning, grief suns / hidden rhythms (272)
Frida Kahlo. The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait. Trans,. Sarah M. Lowe. London: Bloomsbury, 1995.
November 16, 2006
Claudia Schaefer on ‘Autobiography and Self Portrait: Images of Self, Images of the Other’
From ‘Frida Kahlo’s Cult of the Body: Self-Portrait, Magical Realism, and the Cosmic Race’ in Textured Lives
Schaefer compares Kahlo’s self-analysis with Freud’s ‘talking cure’ and sees painting for Kahlo as a kind of therapy. In her paintings, Kahlo presents her own history, past and present, to create a kind of autobiography in art. Schaefer quotes Paul de Man who describes autobiography as ‘textual production’ (see ‘Autobiography as De-facement’, MLN 94 (Dec ’79): 919-930). Equivalent to written autobiography, these paintings are not a developmental narrative but offer ‘a permanent lack of equilibrium (22). Unsurprisingly, Schaefer plunges back into autobiographical readings suggesting that Kahlo’s ‘physical appearance’, Mexican background and her life experience were the wounds to be examined in Kahlo’s autobiography (23).
Now Schaefer considers Kahlo’s painting about Diego Rivera, who appears, according to Schaefer as an object of ‘obsession/possession as well as the Other’ (23). She refers to Self Portrait as a Tehuana and Diego and I as examples. These paintings also feature the third eye as a means to look in and out. Enhanced perception can also be seen in:
• Thinking About Death (1943):
• Sun and Life (1947):
• and The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Diego, Me and Senor Xólotl (1949).
Schaefer wonders if Kahlo’s desire for a third eye echoes Mexican politicians’ desire for insight into the future of their country and she cites Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick Schaefer ponders whether Kahlo was ‘becoming something akin to a martyr to a past era, caught between the celebration of the individual subject of “stardom” and the defence of collective utopian revolutionary ideals’ (24).
In any case, Kahlo makes a world of her own body and a metalanguage to go with it that includes: ‘native Tehuana costumes, tears, eyebrows transformed into birds’ wings, skeletons, fetuses [sic], hair ribbons, tropical flora and fauna, and the splitting or doubling of her own image’ (24). Her presence is ‘visible, concrete’ (24).
In thinking about the split between European and Mexican cultures, Schaefer quotes Janet A. Kaplan who has studied the 30s and 40s Mexican art groups: the European set (Varo, Horna, Carrington Gerszo) and the muralistas (Rivera, Kahlo, Orozco). Kahlo’s adoption of Tehuana costume is very significant in the light of these two rather antagonistic groups.
Kahlo often seeks identity in relation to others in her paintings: for example the conflict between men and women in A Few Small Nips . Often these paintings evoke a tension between the subject as autonomous or as passive object.
Kahlo often seems to observe herself as an object, not a subject, experiencing a detached consciousness of her own persona. ‘Frida’, with her unblinking gaze, swirling hair, joined eyebrows and tortured body, becomes the public identity of the real woman Frida Kahlo, much as her beloved Mexico reduces and institutionalizes the Revolution into icons for mass identification and consumption. (28)
Schaefer quotes Berger when he writes about the public and private split in twentieth century women. Similarly Kahlo ‘acts and simultaneously perceives herself acting; she paints and describes the process of painting through her product; she feels pain and watches herself react’ (28). However, Kahlo’s quest ‘to attain the paradise of a complete mental and physical body’ is also a ‘search in Mexico for a utopian social body after the Revolution’ (28).