If there were ever an artist that saw things for more than what they appeared to be it was Frida Kahlo.
The evolution of Frida's art expressed the complex, inner change and growth that seemed to occur as her life offered her so many extreme ups and downs.
Frida was born and raised in Coyoacan, La Casa Azul, Mexico. Her home still stands as a museum to her legacy. A legacy which includes advocating for the rights of native, indigenous people of her country. She saw that the world was developing with new technologies and industry but giving little thought to the poor, and underdeveloped. She often fought to keep the traditions of those groups.
Her art became a voice for Mexico after famous artist Andre Breton noticed it and encouraged her to share it with other parts of the world. Her art went on tour to New York and then to France in which the Louvre made a purchase of her paintings making her the first Mexican artist to be featured there.
She suffered from polio at a young age and then at 18 she was in a nearly fatal car accident that left her in a plaster corset for almost 3 months and failing health issues all her life. She died at the young age of 47.
Art was an outlet for her and a way for her to express her vibrant and passionate personality but it especially became evidence of her ability to see in the present moment.
Many of her pieces were portraits of herself and close friends which shows her capacity to see individual worth. Frida had the ability to be mindful of her specific surroundings and company in a way that most did not. One example of this was her observance of San Francisco in which she noticed the irony of wealthy living among the poor. She wrote in a letter to a friend,
"although I am very interested in all the industrial and mechanical development of the United States... [I feel] a bit of a rage against all the rich guys here, since I have seen thousands of people in the most terrible misery without anything to eat and with no place to sleep, that is what has most impressed me here, it is terrifying to see the rich having parties day and night whiles thousands and thousands of people are dying of hunger".
She spent her life looking for things others could not see and then showed it in her art. Her self portraits seem to say so much. Her life may have been filled with pain and challenges but those experiences gave her insights and helped her become the artist she has come to be.
Frida Kahlo is an example of opening our perspective and mind to the world around us, seeing people as they are and sharing that outlook with the others.
What we learn from Frida:
The things we go through in life, especially the hardships, can help us be more aware of the suffering of others and enables us to have empathy.
Draw a self-portrait together like Frida did and reflect on the characteristics you can see in a person’s face. Can you see kindness? Joy? Empathy? Sorrow?
Or, draw a portrait of each other. Try to show the characteristics you see in your child through their portrait.
The point of this activity is to reflect on who you want to be and who you want the world to see when they look at you. Your portraits may not be to the level of Frida’s, but they can have the same spirit of honesty and self-reflection.
You will need:
- Something to draw with (pencil, crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc)
- A mirror or photo of yourself, if doing a self-portrait
Questions for discussion:
- What’s something about yourself that you want others to see more?
- Frida experienced a lot of suffering through her health. How do you think her trials made her more aware of others? Are they related?
- Have you noticed someone you would like to help? What can we do to help them?
Our Frida Shirt: