Sisterhood Blog

Free Frida Kahlo!

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share

Often, when a member of a marginalized group achieves fame in an area in which her group lacks representation, she becomes an icon. This is nearly inevitable, and continues to happen today to women like Lena Dunham and Hillary Clinton.

Being an icon definitely has its perks. People love you. They want more of you and what you do. And they’ll pay.

But it also has it drawbacks. Icon status forces a person into symbol-status. No longer does who they are and what they do just represent them as individuals, but also the whole underrepresented group that identifies with them. Before long they are expected to be all things to all people, and somewhere in that process the focus on their work and message either becomes skewed or disappears.

Such a fate befell Frida Kahlo, the half-Jewish, Mexican, artist whose cult status has made her huge in the stationary and dorm-room poster business, but overlooked among the art elite. In a story on ArtNews, Carolina A. Miranda writes about a new Kahlo exhibit which is aiming to change this and get people thinking about her very real achievements as an artist. The show pairs Kahlo’s work with contemporary art, an attempt to illustrate how truly avant-garde she was in terms of painting style and subject matter.

Miranda writes about how Kahlo was respected in her lifetime — she was the first Mexican artist to have a painting acquired by the Louvre — but fell out of fashion after her death in 1954 while the work of her husband Diego Rivera and other Mexican muralists stayed relevant. Kahlo remained a “footnote” until feminist scholars who were actively seeking out work by women artists began paying attention in the late ‘70s. Before long she was at the center of a retrospective, which was later followed by a 500-page biography, and then in 2002 a movie directed by and starring Salma Hayek as the painter. All this attention certainly lifted the veil of obscurity off of Kahlo’s work, but also reinforced the idea that she was an icon first and painter second.

By pairing Kahlo’s work with that of boundary-pushing artists working today, this show might change that. For one, it will allow us to see how, as the curator put it, radical Kahlo’s approach was when it came to depicting women’s bodies. “The painting of physical, biological experiences of women—reproduction, abortion, miscarriages,” she told Miranda, “Kahlo put that top of mind.”

It will also remind us how making work that is deeply personal, using one’s life stories and even one’s body, was once seen as feminine and therefore trivial, but is now something even the guys do to. “My Struggle anyone?


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Frida Kahlo, Mexican, Jewish, art

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.