The first in a series dedicated to the feminist inspirations in my life.
Frida Kahlo seemed to me like the most obvious woman to begin this series with. I fell in love with her paintings as an artist, and then I fell in love with her, and her strength as a feminist.
Kahlo is known for her striking clothing, her moustache and her monobrow. Frida Kahlo refused to conform to any stereotypes or societal norms, embracing the person who she wanted to be regardless of gender constrictions. As a public figure, wearing “men’s” clothing was a brave choice, but for her it was just something she did. Frida Kahlo sent the message to all of us (whether or not that was her intention) that you can be whoever you want to be, and to screw society if it tells you you can’t. She taught me it doesn’t matter if women have moustaches and monobrows, and most of all we can fucking rock them too!
When I first got my tattoo I began to notice how much she had challenged societal norms; how, even in 2016, people still had issues with her appearance. I was asked why I had such an ugly woman tattooed on my leg. Why would I have someone who had a moustache and a monobrow on my shin? Sorry, not just someone, a woman. I’d never even questioned it. Why wouldn’t I? Why should it matter what she looks like when her artistic skill and inspiration to my life was so important? To me, she is beautiful and her style is extraordinary. Not only did she inspire my art, but the scarves I wear in my hair.
But, of course, some people can’t see beyond beauty norms. This reaction made me have even greater respect for Kahlo, if that’s what it’s like today, as a reaction to a depiction of her on my leg, what must it have been like for her?
Frida Kahlo’s work focuses on her personal life, her art was used as a therapy to help her through her pain following her accident and her miscarriages. She used painting as her strength, and in this, it became other people’s strength. Moreover, Frida managed to succeed in a time when Mexico was dominated by male artists. She wanted to paint and nothing would stop her; not her illness nor her gender.
Married to Diego Rivera, a famous muralist, at first Kahlo almost lived in his artistic shadow. The Detroit News wrote in 1933 that Kahlo “dabbles in art”. But Kahlo soon became famous in her own right. At her first solo exhibition in 1938 half of her paintings were sold, and Frida Kahlo became a celebrity figure. Known for her paintings and her look, she featured in newspapers and magazines. Today, there are films and theatre productions documenting her life.
For me, it was through my love of her that I learnt of Diego Rivera, not the other way around.
She is a talented influential artist, a strong woman who overcame personal tragedies, and someone who wasn’t ever scared to be herself. Embrace Frida’s spirit, be who you want to be and don’t let anyone or anything stop you!