This week was Frida Kahlo’s birthday. Though she would’ve been 110 years old, her essence still seems as vital today as it did when she was alive.
Kahlo was my girl crush before girl crush was a thing. I discovered her when I was about 12. I loved drawing and painting and when I first saw Kahlo’s self portraits they made me realise how few self portraits by female artists I’d ever seen.
A man’s self portrait is the artist gracing us, lifting the curtain however briefly to provide a glimpse of his genius, while a woman’s self portrait is TMI. A thing to be tolerated.
Kahlo demanded more and in her lifetime she achieved it. International success, respect for her work that defied categorisation – she was often dubbed a surrealist but Kahlo herself disputed this, sexual liberation (she was bisexual and had many passionate affairs, as did her husband) and an equal status to her larger-than-life husband the celebrated muralist, Diego Rivera.
Kahlo was one of the most committed, single-minded individualists of the last century. She survived blows to her health and to her psyche and produced some of the strangest and most compelling work of the 20th century. She wore her femininity and her masculinity with a boldness that is sadly absent from many of our contemporary female icons. She famously rocked a monobrow and her clothes were half adornment and half medical device such were her physical needs after repeated injury and surgery. Now she is the ultimate icon for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider.
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”