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Frida Kahlo: feminist, leftist and activist

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Caroline Fritz, Copy Editor

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Bisexual Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico City in 1907. At age 18, she was confined to bed and a nearly full-body cast after a disastrous bus accident.

Her artistic career began during this time when, with nothing else to do, she began to draw on her cast. Her abilities expanded over the course of her life, resulting in 143 works, 55 of which were self-portraits. The paintings featured eccentric imagery and taboo themes such as abortion, sexuality and gender equality.

“Her work . . . brings together the purportedly disparate realms of fantasy and reality; mythology and rationality; native Mexican votive art and European ‘high’ art,” said Anna Haynes of Cardiff University. Kahlo married fellow artist Diego Rivera in 1929 but had many affairs during the course of the marriage, many of which were with women including Georgia O’Keeffe and Josephine Baker.

She was an outspoken feminist leftist and activist. Kahlo frequently dressed in men’s clothing to demonstrate against gender constructs. She was also an avid political activist; her last public appearance was at a demonstration against the U.S.-backed overthrow of President Res Jacobo Arbenz de Guatemala.

Kahlo disregarded mainstream beauty standards, refusing to pluck her eyebrows, even filling them and her faint mustache in with dark pencil. She was an amalgam of shifting identities. As Haynes said:

“Schisms, absences and excesses—the conjoined causes and effects of her ‘in-between’ identity—are woven into the narratives of Frida Kahlo’s life and work.”

Caroline Fritz is a third-year student majoring in English with a minor in linguistics. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Frida Kahlo: feminist, leftist and activist