When someone says “Frida Kahlo,” most people probably imagine the artist with her signature unibrow, cigarette in hand. Others may primarily associate Frida with painter Diego Rivera, her lover with whom she had a tumultuous relationship. For some, Frida is remembered for her ties to the Mexican Communist party.
For a while, my knowledge of Frida Kahlo was limited to those common depictions. However, as I’ve learned more about her, I grew to recognize Frida as one of my favorite artists and powerful women.
Many name Frida Kahlo as a feminist icon. If we’re talking about intersectionality (which we should be, always), Frida is as revolutionary today as she was for her time. Frida owned her multiple identities, recognizing that she could not separate them. For example, Frida highlighted her identity as a Mexican woman as much as she illustrated her experience being physically disabled in her artwork.
Frida Kahlo was also openly bisexual. Despite the stigma surrounding LGBTQ+ persons and the higher degree of intolerance for anything outside the norm in the first half of the twentieth century, Frida boldly exhibited confidence in her sexuality. Understandably, Frida’s authenticity and self-acceptance empowers people to this day.
For me, Frida’s journey of overcoming pain and developing an unashamed attitude towards her physical appearance inspires me most. She experienced a life of pain as a child with illness, suffered injuries at eighteen after a nearly fatal bus accident, and spent the rest of her life dealing with the resulting physical and emotional pain. That’s a lot for anyone to handle.
Nevertheless, she channeled her pain into art, finding ways to acknowledge and move on from her painful experiences. In the process, she came to terms with her healing body. Frida’s practice of self-love and defiance of beauty standards is something, I think, we all can learn from and strive to emulate.