July 6 – Happy Birthday, Frida Kahlo

Posted on July 6, 2016

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
 Frida Kahlo is a famous Mexican painter. She is especially famous for her self-portraits, her eyebrows, and her marriage to artist Diego Rivera.

Her eyebrows?

Did you like how I snuck that in there?

Rather than minimizing her eyebrows through plucking and shaping them in a stereotyped version of what women's eyebrows should look like...

Rather than minimizing her eyebrows in her self-portraits by painting them a bit lighter, a bit smaller, a bit less uni-brow-y...

Rather than idealizing her own features and “femininity”...

Frida Kahlo (born on this date in 1907, as Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón) actually exaggerated her eyebrows, making them larger, blacker, and more uni-brow-y; she was known for uncompromising portrayals of herself and of other subjects.

Here are just a few of the interesting things about this very interesting woman:

Frida contracted polio when she was just six years old, and one of her legs was thinner than the other as a result. She needed to recover her strength, and she became very active and played several sports, going against the unwritten rules of her society in order to do things that only boys were supposed to do. Her activities included bicycling, roller skating, swimming, boxing, and wrestling.

When she was just 18 years old, she was in a bus accident, and she was seriously injured. She suffered from a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, eleven fractures of her polio-affected leg, a crushed and dislocated foot, and an abdomen pierced by a bit of iron. The effects of this accident lasted all her life; she had to deal with tons of pain, off-and-on all her life, she had months of recovery in a full body cast but sometimes had to be hospitalized or bedridden, years later; she had to have 35 operations on her back, leg, and foot; and she could never have a child.

Before the bus accident, Frida was studying medicine. During the recovery from the accident, she began to paint. It was something she could do in bed, thanks to the special easel her mom ordered. Kahlo said that she painted so many self-portraits because “I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” By the end of her life and artistic career, Kahlo had created 55 self-portraits (out of about 140 paintings).

Here are two of her pieces that are NOT self-portraits:

Kahlo grew up in La Casa Azul (the Blue House), in Mexico City; this very blue house became a museum in 1958.

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