When we think of great artists, we think of Leonardo Da Vinci, Picasso, Salvador Dali, who were best known for their work. But a very few of us know them for who they truly were. Frida Kahlo was an exception to this rule. While most of us know her for her artwork, we also knew her for the person she was because, unlike most artists who painted what they saw, Frida painted what she was. And this is what made her revolutionary in the 20th century.
We know Frida as an artist, but what we don’t know is that she was much more than just that. She was a communist, a feminist, an icon of fashion, above all, she was a person of her own. The tragic events of her life might’ve led her to lose a lot physically, but she did not lose herself. Her entire life is testimony to that. So the question is how did she do it? How did she manage to retain her identity despite her world of pain, when the choice of giving it all up was always open? While many of us may say that she did it through art, I’d say otherwise. Frida wasn’t always an artist, she painted when certain incidents of her life compelled her to do so. Yes, she communicated with the world through her paintings however, it wasn’t her only way.
Frida always stuck to her roots no matter what. Whether it was the way she dressed, the culture she followed, or the paintings she painted, they all had a touch of her Mexican and European heritage. She knew how to transform her insecurities into a tool by highlighting her flaws, indicating the beauty of imperfections. She truly embraced everything about herself, unfiltered and unapologetic.
This brings us to the most important life lesson Frida has left for us- self-acceptance. She didn’t bother hiding her husky voice or her bushy eyebrows and accepted her natural appearance. Always standing up for herself, she was brave enough to own every part of her unapologetically; a quality that’s lacking in today’s world. On the contrary, not taking responsibility for one’s own actions has become a trend now. She taught us self-love and invented the concept of personal branding way before it was introduced. Frida not only knew how to accept herself but also accepted others the way they were. As a believer of humanity, she knew the power of mutual faith and loyalty which is what made her so popular among the masses.
Often referred to as ‘poetry on canvas’, her paintings showed endurance, something which is common to all. Her work was piercing yet tender and strong, relinquishing the cruel bitterness of life. Frida painted for herself, her paintings were her diary, transcending her pain. It meant so much to her that the more fragile her health was, the more she painted. Kahlo’s canvas was her mirror, she was the painter, the model, and the painting itself.
Frida was not surrounded by paparazzi or glam whatsoever, yet history has seen her participate in many international runways of Moschino, Givenchy, Lagerfield and appear on the covers of music labels and magazines. She claimed fashion as therapeutic and was one of the first women to have advocated the facade of masculinity and femininity, miles ahead of her times. Using pop culture as a myth and incorporating European surrealism in her work and life, one could tell Frida was as much a part of the pan culture, as that of the indie scene, and the hippie movement. However, Frida refused to be branded as a Surrealist.
As a person, she had no desire to fit in. Identity, difference, and singularity were her motto as she did not want to be just another person, she wished to make a mark in the going of the world and she certainly did. Always against conventionalism, the unpredictable was more appealing to her. Interpreting various roles in society, from a feminist, a heroine, political activist to a muse of her own, Frida made it clear that diversity was everything to her at all points of her life. Frida Kahlo was, unfortunately, a victim of her destiny, but not a victim of life.
Just as quoted by her husband Diego Rivera, who was also an artist, Frida was always close to death but brought warmth and life to places that she went. Even today, decades after her death, she is still spoken of in several places and shall always be honored for creating moments and revolutions in not just the artistic world but in the entire world.