Frida Kahlo: Femininity and Nonconformity

Maybe you know her for her paintings, or maybe you know her for her infamous brows, but Frida Kahlo was much more than just one of the worlds most notorious female artists. It is the tragic yet amazing life of Frida that is what makes her such a legendary feminist icon and nonconformist to many around the world. In 1925, at the age of 18, the Mexican artist and her then boyfriend Alejandro Arias, were involved in a deadly bus accident that resulted in her being impaled by an iron handrail. This accident would shape the rest of her life as it left her with lifelong damage that would ultimately result in her death in 1954. While Frida had long been a rebellious anti-colonialist, socialist, and feminist in her community, it wasn't until after the accident, however, that Kahlo decided to join the Mexican Communist Party and took to painting again. Being the exceedingly independent young woman she was, Frida fought tirelessly her whole life for the social values which she believed in and strived to embody her Mexican culture in both her style and her artwork.

Photograph of Frida Kahlo circa 1938

For me, Frida embodies the ultimate free spirit. While dealing with feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity, she was able to form her own unique identity and sense of style which incorporated all her beliefs and views of the world. She held her own in a world of elitists and men. Much of her artwork consists of self-portraits, a sort of therapy she used to express her deepest pains and emotions. This was something of a rarity in her time, and where it was found to be disturbing by some, for many it was refreshing to witness the workings of a human so in-tune with her self. To be able to stay grounded and unique in an age of technology and conformity is a worry for many, including myself. The world seems to be constantly on the move, lacking patience and empathy, and perhaps many feel as though they are unable to find their own identity through all the chaos. While dealing with these worries, I find it comforting to remember the world of Frida. Though she was lucky enough to have lived in a world pre-technology, her dealings with death, mental and physical health, infidelity, sexuality and abandonment made her life just as hard to navigate through as many find today.

Self-portrait Frida Kahlo dedicated to one of her lovers, Leon Trotsky

Perhaps, through Kahlo's eyes, the meaning of personal freedom is to be unapologetic in all stages of ones life, to do everything you do with full force and no regrets. To discover your values and project them ferociously. Frida did this through her many love affairs, her art works, and her campaigns for social and political reform. Never in her life did the artist look back with uncertainty, and even in times where she was unhopeful for the future, she maintained true to herself and her identity. Constant self-reflection was a big therapeutic necessity for Frida Kahlo, and I believe one of the most fascinating ways she analyzed her own existence was through her dealings with her impending death. As well as portrayals of her birth and life experiences, it was clear through her artwork that she often thought about her own death. Accepting her mortality and place as a single being within the universe was a likely aid in helping her to find her identity and push for non-conformity, as she found the individual experience of life to be sacred. The understanding that the world and everything within it is finite is perhaps one of the most crucial concepts to understand for humans. It pushes us to form our identity within the space we are given and embrace our surroundings, just as Frida did with her femininity. Never one to mold to expectations, she took control of her place within early twentieth century Mexican society and understood that she did not have to conform to traditionalist ideas of femininity and sex. We see today that most of the world has become an increasingly liberal space in its ideas of gender and sexuality, however for Frida, that was not the default. The standardization of femininity being seen as something that is beautiful and fluid was just another one of Frida's greatest accomplishments. Kahlo's infamous last words were "Espero Alegre la Salida – y Espero no Volver jamás" (I joyfully await the exit - and I hope never to return).

The Following are some of Frida Kahlo's most famous works of art, containing themes of sadness, birth, death, and love:

The Broken Column: a depiction of Kahlo's chronic pain and sadness
Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird: A depiction of her sadness within her marriage

Henry Ford Hospital: A depiction of grief Kahlo experienced after a miscarriage

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