This essay belongs to The Insurrectionists Women series
Translated by Katrina Hassan
Many critics considered Frida Kahlo a naïve artist. They undervalued her artistic technique. Frida overcame the passage of time and her art travelled the world over as if it became small enough for the palm of her hand. This limitless woman dared to resist. She questioned, rebelled and said no to wasting away, inert. The pain Frida felt did not rob her of expressing what was in her soul. Against all odds, Frida painted, painted and painted. She showed us, with her naïve art, the beauty of simple souls.
Why must we undervalue and put someone in last place because of their painting technique? The first nations people have always been the ones to monumentally portray the colours of everyday life. The snub, firstly goes to them and secondly to the working class that dares to try and create art. That working class, according to some, must be born to be servants and not step out of line. The working class are relegated to a life of racism, classism and the colonisation mentality. It is stupidly believed that art only belongs to one sector of society; the middle class and the bourgeois. The working class cannot create or enjoy anything. As if art was not everywhere around us. It is what we are. It is what we do as humanity, without caring about religion or social class, nationality, language or ethnicity. Art is everywhere around us. Art is even the way we drink our coffee in the morning.
We need to unlearn and relearn to appreciate the naïve artists and how we see them. We need to value their art because they have put a major effort into making it. There is usually an uphill battle to produce it. There are usually no funds for the creations, even though they’ve looked in every nook and cranny for them. The working class artist dares to dig themselves out of the place where the rest of society has buried them. In Frida’s case it wasn’t about resources or funds. It was more about her physical limitations and life circumstances. Frida could’ve given up before even starting but she did the opposite.
Not only is Frida’s art a constant battle against adversity, but the expression of a soul that the chains of immobility didn’t manage to bring down. This is why her paintings are so valuable. Each brushstroke is proof of the of uphill battle to resist. Any other person would have given up. Depression, immobility, physical and emotional pain, were all combated with paint brushes.
Frida’s art is a universe onto itself, it does not need to be understood. It does not need an art know-it-all to approve it. Her art is felt in the soul, like the resistance of the people from the First Nations. It is felt like the will of the women that dare to face the patriarchal canons and bring them down with their intent. Life is like this, every second is intent. Frida lived every second with intent. She lived with intent much more than those art critics or artists with their fancy art school techniques. Her legacy is monumental and we need to take it and wear it like a flag of humility.
Many people say that art is political, but they forget that humans are political since birth. It is in our nature. For this reason, we have seen a gazillion artists profit and benefit from peoples’ tragedy and pain. Frida painted herself, because that is what she had at hand. She painted what she saw everyday, the people she spend the most time with. She painted the working class. She spent her time with everyday workers as people do with lifelong friends. This is not common in the art world. Artist usually want to surround themselves with important people that can be a beneficial step up in the world. This is why artists and the bourgeoisie fawn over each other. Frida did have some of those people in her surroundings, but she never looked down on those people with weathered hands that helped build the foundations for great cities.
Frida’s political self, like that of any common mortal, without thinking too much of herself, took her to protest against the Coup of Guatemala against Jacobo Árbenz in 1954. Who would do such a thing nowadays. Very, very few. The most surprising thing is that she was in terrible physical health at the time. She went to protest on the 2nd of July and died on the the 13 of July, 1954. Her last picture taken was taking at this protest. This says a lot about her commitment as an artist and as a human standing up for the marginalised people. This is what we should learn from her. She is criticised for her gutsiness, because it is easier to criticise than to imitate her. It is easier to point her out and look down on her than to follow her example. Easier than valuing her struggle and her immensity.
Thanks to Frida’s daring and audacity, and her complete self, she is one of The Women of Latin America Insurrectionists
I had the marvellous opportunity to see the Timeless exhibition that came to the USA. There were about 25 paintings by the artist. They were brought over from Mexico, from the Olmedo Museum. I went to pay tribute to Frida, as a working class woman to the woman herself. She stood up for the people of Guatemala, when the going got tough.
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Ilka Oliva Corado @ilkaolivacorado