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Frida Kahlo was born in 1907
in Mexico. She was a fierce and passionate woman. Kahlo experienced many events
that led her to start painting. Kahlo’s artworks do not only show us the trauma
she experienced but it also takes us through a journey through her life. (The art story,
2018) As Kahlo herself stated “I never painted my dreams, I painted my own reality” (Fkhalo.com, 2018) Kahlo was a surrealist painter and she used vibrant colors together with
a style that was influenced from both the Mexico culture and European
surrealism. (Arthistoryarchive.com, 2018) My Birth was painted with oil on metal
and it tells us two different stories from two separate events that heavily
affected her. Kahlo started this piece after she suffered one of many miscarriages
and finished shortly after her mother passed away from cancer (Sabbeth, 2005) My Birth represents both Kahlo giving
birth, and being born into this world. (Lomas, D., & Howell, R. (n.d.)
Another might reasonable assume that the woman giving birth is her own mother
and the baby coming out is Frida Kahlo herself. The miscarriage and knowing
that she will never be able to have children of her own, the fetus that is
exiting the womb seems lifeless. The painting of The Mater Dolorosa (fig 1)
also known as the mother of Christ or the “virgin
of sorrows” shows sadness by the tears rolling down her face and the skin which
is pierced by a blade in the throat – symbolically showing the grief and that
she emphasizes with the mother laying on the bed with a cover over her head
which indicates that
the ghost of death and loss lives closely together and dangle over the single moment
of birth. Kahlo allows us to see her Mexican roots, since the painting is made
in a votive stile, which is a fairly smaller traditional Mexican painting that
is obtained from the catholic church art. Kahlo also drew small pictures of
herself in her diary along with a a sentence saying “The one who gave birth to herself…who wrote the most wonderful poem of
her life” A part from showing a
grieving mother who just lost her child, it also shows the capability of
finding courage to create a strong and beautiful piece of art despite the
trauma. (The art story, 2018) The message that Kahlo tries to deliver from the
painting is to understand the importance of birth and death and remember that and
how easy it is to have it taken away. It might also be said that the painting
was inspired by an Aztec sculptured that Kahlo had bought and placed it in her
home. Aztec sculpture which represents Tlazolteotl,
also known as the “Goddess of fertility
and midwives” (The art story, 2018)

 

 

My Nurse and I by Frida Kahlo, 1937 (fig.2)

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This piece was painted in 1937
with the use of the technique oil on metal. It was made when Kahlo’s husband
Diego Riviera encouraged her to start painting a series of life events. This
piece was the first art piece where Kahlo incorporated and explored the pre-Columbian
symbolism and culture into her paintings. My
Nurse and I is a self-portrait where she portrays herself as a baby with
the body of an infant and the face of a grown woman being breastfeed by her
nurse. The face of the nurse is covered by a pre-Columbian mask, implying that
she is not seen as a person, but rather of symbolic value. The mask refers to
Mexico’s colonial past and it suggests that the painting is an interaction between
historical findings as well as nature and culture. There is a common negative
portrayal of gender and race that Kahlo managed to capture and in My Nurse and I it represents the power
and equality. (Borsa, n.d.) Even though the native woman’s face is not shown
and the skin of the infant is paler, it gives the sense of affinity since there
are many similarities between the infant and the nurse. Both have black hair that
is above the shoulder and their eyebrow both unites as one in both of their
faces together with the milk that goes into Kahlo’s mouth gives the impression that
baby Frida feels safe in her strong arms. Kahlo did have a native nurse when
growing up and the painting does not only depict the nourishing of baby Frida,
but also how she embraced the native heritage of Mexico. The flowers on the
nurse’s right breast is an indirect quotation to the Mexican culture. (Deffebach,
2015) Another might reasonable state that since the birth of her eleven months’
younger sister Christina, she had strong feelings of loss and abandonment from her
mother Matilde Calderón. The nurse is breastfeeding her but because of the pre-Columbian
mask, it is impossible to know if she is only doing it out of practical reasons
or if she is bonding with the infant and is she is pleased taking care of her. (Google
Arts & Culture. n.d.)  The Aztec identified days in their calendar
with different parts of the creatural body and the flower represents one of the
days in the calendar, which is affiliated with the nipple. It is believed that
out of all the paintings that Kahlo completed, this one was her favorite because
it allowed her to connect with her Mexican heritage – which she continued doing
when she painted the rest of her paintings during her lifetime. (Deffebach,
2015) As Kahlo once commented on her creation: “I am in my nurse’s arms with the face of a grownup woman and the body
of a little girl, while milk falls from her nipples as if from the heavens” – Frida
Kahlo (USEUM, 2018)

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