Apparently, “Frida Kahlo is having a moment“. Well, I’ve got news for you New York Times….she’s been like, totes hot for evah.
Cos she was, like, an iconoclast. And that’s of course because her art portrayed a heady combination of politics, beauty and feminist modernism, emblematic of Mexico’s coming of age following its bloody civil war.
But she did something else too, something that marks her as a product of her time more than just the flowery riots of colour. Frida was a Not-Disabled artist.
Make no mistake, Frida Kahlo was irretrievably fucked. She’d suffered both polio and a catastrophic bus crash that had left her more or less filleted. And yet, rather than fight for exceptionalism, she incorporated these physical shortcomings into the image of herself. Frida Kahlo turned herself into an artwork; haughty, broken, bitter but strong, the perfect medium for aesthetic representation, and a wonderful metaphor for the new Mexico itself.
Yet how many times have you heard Frida Kahlo described as a ‘disabled artist’?
Actually, when I think about it, perhaps the most meaningful contribution Kahlo’s disability made to her life was killing her before she got old and ugly, a fate that would surely have condemned her to present day obscurity. Instead, she died young and fucking, a downright blessing for her current cohort of fans – an army of vapid thirty-something lightweight feminists from ‘Melbs’ who keep themselves busy posting wonkily rendered lino-cuts of her monobrow on Instagram;
For them, Frida (for they are on first name terms) is the ultimate hipster pin-up girl. She represents both flamboyance and restrained austerity: embracing florrid, flowing skirts whilst economising on peasant blouses and eyebrows. Oh yeah, and she was, like, political too. Frida evokes a kind of inertly feminine political rebelliousness, one that sits well with the nominally counter-culture, individualistic fashions favoured by the dark-denim, kombucha and apartment cactus set.
Frida Kahlo has been seamlessly incorporated into the Gen-Y branding machine in a way she never could if she were alive today, where she’d no doubt be the subject of the warts-and-all media drip-feed detailing a banal life spent gulping painkillers and leaking into stiffening sheets beneath a halo of summertime flies.
Come for the lino-cut, stay for the communism.