Frida Kahlo: Beyond Just a Wounded Heart
Frida Kahlo was one of the most inspiring artists of her time. Her work embodied various concepts revolving around her culture, symbolism, and the harsh life she endured. Her work symbolized her deepest despairs and brought forth a representation beyond words. She is well known for depicting her life through self-portraits.
Alone, she was able to bring forth a new art form in Mexico. She embraced her natural beauty and identified her truest form despite society’s norm. Many described her as a revolutionary artist with her raw form of art style that revolved around her love life and tragedies she endured throughout her life. Frida Kahlo is a staple name to the people of Mexico and beyond. Her work represented her life and spoke for her when she didn’t. “The Two Fridas,” brought forth a new topic of conversation.
To paint the picture, the image is two different Fridas sitting together holding hands. The Frida on the left is a representation of a more traditional form, some describe it as European in a white gown with a polished face. Looking at her chest, her heart is open and exposed, running along her left hand she is holding a vein that appears to have been cut and is dripping blood onto her white dress. The Frida on the right has a more modern appearance.
Her heart is exposed but is whole. A vein is wrapped along her right arm but is that leads to a photo in her hand, her ex husband. In the background, you can see a vein running along the back of their head connecting them. The background is unsettling. The sky is gloomy and grey and is displaying an unwelcoming feeling to the eye. Sets a more serious and worrisome mood showing that despite seeing a more modern independent women on the right, there is still despair within her.
Stuart Hall has defined representation through three different aspects: intentional, reflective and constructionist. From a constructionist view, the message behind the artwork is to depict the aftermath after Fridas divorce. This painting is allowing us to see the pain that’s rooted in her chest. In the traditional version of Frida, her heart is exposed and its raw while on the modern version her heart is closed off showing how much her former husband meant to her. The transition between the open heart and closed heart may suggest he took a piece of her or deeply wounded her after her divorce.
Perhaps the closed heart is her symbolizing that she is closing herself off to from those around her. The traditional Frida is also holding a vein that is bleeding out suggesting the possible death of her former self or the death of the women he once loved. Frida is wearing a white dress and has a face of makeup purity and beauty. This may suggest what her husband was fond of or what men sought after in women. Perhaps the white dress is a symbol of her marriage. From a cultural perspective, anatomy exposure is a representation of her wounds transitioning to pain. Putting aside fixed meaning, it’s clear that pain will be a common theme among those who fix their eyes on such a painting.
It appears that Frida used an intentional approach to this image to allow us as the audience to see her pain. She revealed this image shortly after her divorce after eleven years and with her reveal she displayed blood, pain and a gloomy setting leading to the interpretation of death or deep sadness. She represented disparity in her truest form. She is known for her eye-catching self-portraits with symbols along the background to give us an idea of what she aims to explain.
The bleeding vein depicts her death. From a constructionist view, perhaps the death of her former self, or the death of who she was with her partner, what he loved, etc. This lead to the rebirth of herself as an independent modern woman. Like Stuart Hall has stated before there are no fixed meanings when it comes to representation. What’s being suggested is based on cultural perspectives so this is an image of multiple conversations but the central theme like stated before is a pain.
Frida is a well-known artist among the Mexican community. If you try to analyze the image from a viewer who is familiar with her life might have a bit of a different interpretation. Firda has had an incredibly difficult life. She has gone under numerous surgeries and her one love was her husband Diego. In the image, you see a clamp with the vein that is bleeding out. A possible role for that clamp might be its association with her recurring surgeries throughout her life. It might be displaying her recurring trips to the surgical table, not necessarily death. The gloomy weather suggests her consistent battle of pain from the aftermath or the restraints she was given after each one. Of course, this painting was made shortly after her divorce so that will remain a core concept in this painting. The clamp could be a form of intentional meaning from Frida herself while still remaining constructionist viewpoint from her fans.
Looking at the cultural aspect, Frida is well known to express her work in forms of politics and embracing signs and meanings from her culture. In this image, the norm of a wounded heart, in this case intentionally and literally is symbolized with death or heartbreak. A well-dressed gown symbolizes wealth and in the old times, women of class. A woman during that time was seen as presentable, polished, made up face so it was socially constructed to have the term women, be associated with beauty.
Frida tackled this concept and represents herself as what a woman should be perceived but proudly embraced her natural beauty by incorporating her facial hair despite people opinions and definitions of what a woman should “be.” Nowadays this conversation that will constantly be changing. The point being made in this image is at that time it was not what was socially constructed, she broke barriers when it came to her self portraits.
In all, this piece among many others is an important image to analyze because as Zavala emphasized, Latinx art is not prodimentalty represented on its own. Latin American art history is more sought after and Latinx art is usually dismissed or underrepresented despite its important contribution to art history. Zavala emphasized an important point, stating that while having Latinx art be mixed with Latin American Art history, there is a lack of recognition with the accomplishments made by the Latinx community.
Frida Kahlo is a highly recognized artist but there are many underrepresented artists within the Latinx community that is brushed to the side within a different category of art history or still lack the recognition in many universities. Perhaps bring forth the conversation is the key to bring more awareness to Latinx artists. The Two Fridas bring forth a new expression and edge to typical self-portraits. It’s a perfect example of Stuart Hall’s interpretation of fixed meanings since this art piece alone can bring forth so many interpretations allowing an open identity. The culture was embedded in Frida and through her work, we used those cultural symbols and society help us decode the image to create meaning. She is one of the many Latinx artists who deserve more recognition.