“Feet, what do I need them for
when I have wings to fly?”
Art prodigy, open bisexual, feminist, political activist, cultural icon. After noticing that familiar face in various televised media and then on the back of a friend’s shirt, I was intrigued by how well known and impactful this entity seemed to be. Surely, you have encountered her at some point.
Frida Kahlo is a remarkable figure; her bold character has persevered through a surprising amount. She has been especially perceptible to physical harm throughout her life: being born with spina bifida, contracting polio, surviving the trolley accident, and amputating her leg due to gangrene. Being a promising student, the inability to pursue long-awaited dreams was absolutely devastating. We can infer this from the various entries in her journal, examples being “the most important thing for everyone […] is to have ambition and become ‘somebody’, and frankly, I don’t have the least ambition to become anybody” as well as “I hope the exit is joyful, and I hope never to return” (Frida Kahlo). While this toxic mindset has led her to a history of mental illness and several suicide attempts, it has also allowed her to openly tackle many taboos throughout society that sane-minded people didn’t have enough courage to address.
In adolescence, she attended a school in which there were more than 150 males for every female. In her spare time, she would partake in the Mexican Party of Communism, lying to all colleagues that she was born in 1910 instead of 1907 in order to be considered a “child of the revolution”. It was through this community that she met Diego Rivera, a prominent artist and a man 20 years older, who would later become her troublesome husband that she very much loved. This turbulent relationship was dissed by virtually everyone; Kahlo’s mother only allowed it because Diego’s wealth could pay for Frida’s medical expenses. Through thick and thin, unanimous affairs, and remarriage, Frida was able to get art publicity through her husband’s connections nonetheless.
While Kahlo did not do it alone, the memorability of her exhibitions were ultimately due to the ways in which her art expressed identity. The severe trauma from the bus crash left her with (what likely was) borderline personality disorder, depression, as well as acquired savant syndrome (characterized by exceeding abilities in a certain skill). This conundrum of traits made her different than everyone else and pushed her toward pursuing her uniqueness. The most common ideas that her artwork and image portrayed were cultural appreciation and personal acceptance (starring the moustache and unibrow). The rest of the world was in awe of empowering ideas coming from people of colour. This artist has cultivated her art style to what she believed reflected the Mexican heritage, whereas many others (including her husband) were impressionists of European concepts.
It is a little bit absurd that I compare myself to her; these are some of the ways that we are similar:
|Frida Kahlo||Olesya Kondrateva|
|Aspiring med student before the accident||Aspiring med student|
|Doesn’t necessarily have a middle name||Has no middle name|
|History of crippling mental illness||yes|
|Angst; confusion, inconsistent sense of self||Fluctuating self-esteem and societal purpose|
|Dark hair, dark skin||Dark hair, dark skin|
|Part of the communist party||Parents were born in communist Russia|
|Is the most prominent female Mexican artist! Known as the master of self-portraits (143 in her lifetime)||Used to paint well; can sketch a face|
On a deeper level, I think what draws me most to my chosen notable is the innate needs that we share in regards to the future we picture for ourselves, the thought-processing strategies we use, and the conflict of having opinions that sometimes directly contradict those around us. While I find it interesting that we share the same artistic passions, the negative way in which her thought process is similar to mine reflects what we’re striving for in life. There is this ongoing conflict of being an individual opinion with free thought as well as a reflection of the values of others. What is the point of existence if the control that we have over it is only so little? How do we go about our day without a clear purpose? What are the margins of being our own person? Why are we questioning our existence on some days, while are enlightened by passion and obsession over little details the next? Although not confirmed, Frida’s acquired savant syndrome may have been a catalyst as to her miserable intellect- which really intrigues me. There are many things that we don’t have in common such as ethnicity, culture, and medical history, courage, financial status. Addressing difficult topics is always do-able when you approach it with respect and the best intentions. I am looking forward to finding a good interviewee, as well as coming up with an engaging idea for the short speech.