“Mirror, Mirror” on the Wall: Frida Kahlo. That Is All.
Photo: Bernard Silberstein (American, 1905-1999), Frida Painting “The Wounded Table, 1940, Gelatin silver print, printed later, 13 ¾ x 16 ½ in. On loan from Throckmorton Fine Art.
“At the end of the day we can endure much more than we think we can,” observed the great artist Friday Kahlo (1907–1954). In her time on earth, Kahlo was a luminous soul, transforming tragedy into triumph with ever stroke of her brush, standing for truth, justice, and self determination in the face of pain and loss.
A child of the Mexican Revolution, Kahlo’s love for Mexico is seen in every aspect of her being. Through art, she revealed herself, creating a singular body of work in the history of world art. Perhaps there is no other artist whose face is so well known, who commands our attention with eyes that could pierce your soul. But unlike the preponderance of selfies today, her studies in portraiture were not about the beauty of the surface but rather something more profound. They are studies of a deeper state of being, one that requires continuous labor of he hand and eye to manifest a self that exists beyond words.
Nothing is pretty, but everything is beautiful. Friday Kahlo reminds us that life itself is the silver living, and throughout, the storms will come and go. She observed, “Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.” Even life itself.
And so it is that we are blessed to have art, to have artists charged to capture, to record, to bear witness while their light flickers in this realm. And so it is with Friday Kahlo that she shone a light, so bright that many artists were inspired to capture it through their own eyes and to give this gift to the world so that all might be inspired by her example.
Mirror, Mirror … Portraits of Frida Kahlo at the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, Gainesville, now on view through April 2017, reveals just how powerful the artist was, becoming one of the most photographed women of her generation. Featuring 57 photographs by 27 photographers including Gisèle Freund, Lola and Manuel Álvarez Bravo, and Edward Weston, the exhibition reveals the many sides of Kahlo, a woman whose uninhibited humor and charm, overt sensuality and grace left them completely spellbound and in a trance.
As master of the self portrait, Kahlo understood the power of identity, and the way in which representation can shape the narrative. Her father was a well-known photographer, so she always understood that the camera was a tool to influence the way people see and think. Perhaps this is why every photograph is just so good; Kahlo knows how to give good face, and so she does.
Perhaps what is most telling is the way in which she has been openly embraced by a canon that tends to disregard women and non-Western cultures. As Pablo Picasso observed, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Friday Kahlo did this like no one before—and no one since.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.