Frida Kahlo reminds artists to stay true to their work


Gaby Velasquez, Photo Editor

Most people who hear Frida Kahlo’s name will recognize the famous Mexican painter with the unibrow.

This week, Alamo Drafthouse hosted an event surrounding Kahlo’s life, “Homenaje a Frida Kahlo,” which featured live dancing, vendors, art and a screening of “Frida,” a movie about the artist’s life. The event celebrated her 110th birthday.

Most people might know that she was married to the famous muralist Diego Rivera, or that she was in a terrible accident or that her surreal self-portraits are very serious and can be a bit graphic.

However, do they also know just how much her tragedies influenced her paintings? At 18, Frida was riding a bus that collided with a trolley car. This left her with a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone and pelvis, 11 fractures in her right leg and a dislocated shoulder.

The accident and her unfaithful relationship with her husband Diego Rivera were some of the reasons why painting became her escape.

Kahlo was planning on going into the medical field before her accident. During that time, she never painted as a profession, she only painted to get through life. 

One of her first surreal paintings was the Henry Ford Hospital in 1932, which depicted her miscarriage of the baby she was going to have with the love of her life, Rivera. The painting shows her naked body bleeding tremendously on a hospital bed. Six different objects are shown tied with string around the bed, as if they were umbilical cords connecting to her hand. Each object symbolizes something important from the miscarriage.

Shortly after this, Rivera cheated on her with her own sister at his painting studio.

After understanding the backstory to the painting, I truly understood the importance of the art history classes we are forced to take as studio art majors. I now know why it’s important to understand the artist’s life in order to truly appreciate their artwork.

Now I relate to Frida more than ever. When she would ask Rivera to critique her paintings when she started painting, she wouldn’t believe his compliments and begged for his criticism and that’s exactly what I do when I ask my best friend Rene and my little brother for their opinion on my pieces.

Most may think that everyone at The Prospector is somewhat affiliated with a journalism or a digital production major. However, that isn’t the case for me, a studio art major. Photography is one of my favorite things to do, but art itself has my heart.

When Diego Martinez, also known as Diego Robot, a local artist here in El Paso, told me that I am talented, and that I should start believing in my work and in the things that I can do, I completely lost it. I was at the store and just had to take a moment to sit down. He has been the first artist that has noticed my work. I’ll forever be grateful to have met such a talented and encouraging individual, similar to Rivera, who always believed in Frida and her talent.

It’s good to be criticized in order to be able to grow as an artist. However, it’s also great to be reminded that I’m heading in the right direction. It’s also cool to see how far I’ve come already from my middle school pieces, which are nonexistent now because of how terrible they were.

What makes a piece worth anything is not how perfect, creative or beautiful it looks, but the true meaning and purpose behind it. I could seriously tell you a whole story behind the pieces that I’ve made that actually have a meaning. The ones that don’t, I feel like I was just forced to create them for a grade. Plus, they look absolutely terrible for working on them in a hurry just to get them done.

As for me, the closest tragedy that has probably recently happened was when my camera just completely stopped working. The funny thing is that the incident actually inspired me to make a lithograph of my camera for my printmaking class since I didn’t have her for three months.

Or probably another “tragedy” that could have inspired me to create something could be all the drama that is going on in my family, but I absolutely do not want to get involved in that.

So, what is my true purpose for making art? What am I trying to say with my pieces?

Well, I’m currently trying to figure that out.

So far, I’m working on continuing my human heart linoleum print series. I will be using the skeletal system this time and will be doing it in sections, starting with the rib cage, down to the pelvis, the skull and so on. I am going to continue to break it down into three parts adding the hands and plant leaves to the second and third part of each section. I also have a couple of ideas that I hope will work out. We will see what happens from there.

And as Frida once said, “Nunca pinto sueños o pesadillas. Pinto mi propia realidad.” Or, “I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.”