In her time the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was best known as the wife and muse of the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Today she is arguably more famous than him. Through her creativity, character and force of will, Kahlo has become a global pop culture icon of Mexico, women, Indigenous peoples and LGBTQ+ communities.
Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón was born in Coyoacán, Mexico City on July 6, 1907. Polio and then a terrible bus accident, when she was eighteen years old, made moving around painful, but nothing stopped Frida. If she couldn’t get out of bed, she painted from bed. She might even have her bed carried around with her in it. It’s one of the characteristics of great artists. Nothing stops them.
Frida’s art wasn’t really discovered until the late 1970s. Her paintings show an unusual level of introspection. It’s as if she had one foot in this world and one foot in the next. And today though she has crossed over, it’s almost as if she is still here with us. From a European perspective that is nonsensical, but from an Indigenous point of view, it makes perfect sense.
In another characteristic of greatness, Kahlo followed her own muse. Her unibrow and slight mustache went against standards of feminine beauty, but she wore them proudly. She wore traditional Mexican clothes because she wanted to.
Rivera was a famous womanizer. Frida also slept with whoever she wanted to. In that time, it was very frowned upon, but again Kahlo did what she wanted. That makes her an LGBTQ+ icon today.
Aside from the injuries, Frida led a charmed life, yet she was always concerned about her people. This is something we see in many Latin American artists, especially women.