Let’s take a closer look at Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The face that’s recognizable worldwide, the captivating look she had, and of course, the eyebrows that turn heads. Frida Kahlo’s image is symbolic of a strong woman whose self-portraits are some of Mexico’s national treasures. She’s become a cultural icon around the world. A champion who overcame great adversity.
The more you study Frida the more you realize that everything about her was symbolic. And for the last few months – that symbolism drew at least 100-thousand people to Illinois’s College of DuPage in 3 months from around the world in a pandemic. All for a chance to walk along the walls that line her work. Overseeing that collection – Diana Martinez who spent the last four years studying every piece of Kahlo. She was very bright, she read in English, German Spanish French and she was very well-read. I think Frida was so ahead of her time, and also in believing in herself.
Frida might be today’s original selfie queen – but her work goes back to the 20s and 30s. She was doing hand-painted selfies in her most vulnerable moments. She showed herself when she miscarried a child. She showed her pain. That pain meant 30 surgeries after a major accident at the age of 15 and a battle with polio as a child. It’s those stories of survival and resilience that have resonated with generations. A cultural icon in her home country and also abroad.
This is why in Chicago’s Pilsen community at the national museum of Mexican art, They’re prepping for a Frida exhibit of its own next year. The public can’t get enough of Frida, one of the exhibitions, Casa Azul is of photos that she collected. With so much Illinois love for Frida in the area, they have questions that many are trying to answer. Did Frida Kahlo ever make a stop in Chicago?
It’s suspected that at some point before she got to Detroit she got off that train and spent a night or two here in Chicago. She loved to travel and that is why it is suspected that she DID make it to Chicago. Unfortunately, there’s no tangible proof. Her husband, Diego Rivera painted 27 murals at the Detroit art institute in 1932, and Frida was with him. At that time they struck up a friendship with dance legend and Illinois native Katherine Dunham. Katherine is the grandmother of African dance and when researchers figured that string of information out they were amazed!
It’s those tiny clues that continue to add on to the Frida Kahlo story. A Mexican icon transcending generations and borders. In this time after the pandemic and what many countries have gone through, Frida is a great inspiration.