For over a year now, I’ve been in the research phase for my Frida Kahlo homage. I’ve delved deep into Mexican art and culture, going as far back as the Aztecs, and have devoured everything Frida related I could get my hands on. But, despite having enough research to create my final portrait, I kept procrastinating. Fear deterred me from even trying to start it.
Fear of not being able to show my adoration for her.
Fear of not being able to portray her character in one image; of doing her justice.
Fear of the final piece simply not being good enough.
I forced myself to put pencil to paper, and scissors to printouts of Frida’s work. Slowly, collages formed in my sketchbooks and ideas remaining from the surrealism research I did for Homage to Dalí kicked in. Did you know? Frida Kahlo never saw herself as a Surrealist, but André Breton, the father of Surrealism, did, and many agreed with him.
In the 1930s, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived in New York for a short while, so this portrait seemed ideal to submit to the Expo Metro, Times Square. As the deadline drew closer, my thought process went into overdrive (another new thing I found out about myself that has changed over the years… working well under pressure). I knew exactly what I wanted to do and which of Frida’s work I wanted to incorporate in the final piece and why:
Sun and Life
The sun is a constant in our lives. It provides life and warmth. In contrast, Frida depicts a crying third eye within it. This image for me symbolised Frida, in that she radiates life whilst mourning the loss of it.
Viva La Vida, Watermelons
‘Viva la Vida’ translates to ‘Long Live Life’ in Spanish. This was written on the watermelon of Frida’s last painting. A few days later, she died. It may not have been her final words, but it was her final message to us.
Memory (The Heart)
Frida depicts the heart in many of her paintings. Wounded, broken or otherwise, it’s ever present. Reading her words in Letters to Mama, Frida clearly was full of heart. Her heartache never stopped her from loving and being loved.
Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed)
The foetus represents her lifelong yearning and struggles to become a mother.
Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird
In this painting, the butterflies were said to represent resurrection. During her lifetime, I believe with her body broken, her spirit had as many little deaths as she had surgeries, only to be resurrected after each one with new life.
Frida embraced and celebrated her Mexican culture and heritage. The texture in the hair and eyebrows is from a traditional Tehuana costume she wears.
I also made the portrait more personal in that I used photographs of her writing in The Diary of Frida Kahlo. These were her own private thoughts and scribbles. How more personal can you get?!
The word ‘venada’, meaning ‘deer’ in Spanish. This page expresses her love for animals and the baby deer she looked after. Her own drawn line represents her neck/shoulder in my artwork.
A hand drawn portrait of a fictional character called Neferdos symbolising power was too much to use as a whole, so I manipulated the rays she drew to radiate out of her to show her power.
The way Frida wrote Diego’s name in capital letters emphasized his importance and influence on her life. Regardless of their tumultuous relationship and affairs, Diego’s name was forever on her lips. I felt it needed to be as much of a central focus as Frida is.
The explosion of colour from this page of the diary just shouted out her zest for life.
The portrait would not be complete without Frida’s name in her own writing…
Before long, my final piece had come together. It took an altogether different turn from what I had originally anticipated. It did, however, keep with my wish to be an inclusion and celebration of Frida’s body of work.
Frida Kahlo is an iconic force of nature, going against the social norm and living on her own terms. Hers is a way of living we all strive for. We don’t want our limitations, whatever they are, to stop us from reaching the top. We want to ‘dance to the sun’ as Frida did which is why ‘Danza al sol’ is given the highest position in the portrait.