I paint my own reality.
From Coyoacán, Frida Kahlo was a self-taught artist famously known for her unibrow, which she wore with pride. Her life, and art, was anything but ordinary after a trolley accident happened when she was 18 and from which Frida was immobilized for almost a year. Her paintings are very wild, fluid, and avant-garde style yet there are primary motifs of Mexican homage- Aztec figures, skeleton masks representing the Day of the Dead, tropical vegetation, flags, etc.. This was something Kahlo was honored to represent as well. Through the paintings, you are able to see into her state of mind.
Diego Rivera- her husband, fellow artist and Communist- was known to indulge in countless affairs with women at the expense of Kahlo’s exuberance. In spite of this, she became not as committed either and, in fact, she was known to have dalliances with both men and women. In this portrait, “Diego y Yo” (or “Diego and I“), the image crops around a tearful Frida looking into the capture point with a gaze of sorrow, and Rivera’s face sits on her forehead, except it has three eyes. The clever placement of her husband in the painting reflects on how he is stuck on her mind and in her thoughts. The third eye, maybe an allusion to Eastern religion, is commonly symbolic of perception into matters beyond your physical vision. Maybe it is that as Frida weeps in pain from Diego’s infidelity and betrayal, Rivera, too, can suspect her of similar deceit.
This piece is known as “Girl with Death Mask“, referencing to the masks that the Mexican people demonstrate in public places on the annual Day of the Dead holiday. Held in her hand is the tagete blossom that one culturally puts on a grave or shrine of a loved one who has passed on. However, if you notice the background of the image, there aren’t any gravesites and judging from the limited illustration, she is about seven or eight years old. For me, the scene signifies the girl’s remembrance of something lost, or “dead”, such as her childlike immaturity and utter innocence. The mask of the fiend at her feet represents a new guise awaiting to be worn after her change in mental development takes in a grief of the adulthood yet to come.
“Roots” (shown above) depicts a self-portrait except she is laying on her side over a rigid region of leaves and soil. The green branches of the plant actually extend from inside her into the ground thus creating a bondage of vines between them. It is a common metaphor to relate roots to one’s racial, cultural, and ethnic background. By including the metaphorical but literal illustration of the roots and hence the name, Kahlo expresses herself in a deep and individual image of her as the land of Mexico (her home country), which is full of low, coastal plains like the ones in the painting.