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Self portrait as an autobiography is an effective tool that has been used to communicate ones experiences. The self-portrait is a document that keeps rate with the client’s changing in views of self and as such it provides a design for exploration and/or other career planning processes. More significantly, artists who use self-portraits testify making life and work options that are worth and that have enduring consequence, (Redekopp et al, 1993). Feminism has been a significant perspective in which the visual culture has been presented over a period of time. Feminism and Visual Culture Reader presents diverse ranges of arts, visual culture, works and related materials from feminist dimensions.
The aim of this reading is to critically evaluate and present the self-portraits of a Mexican female artist, Frida Kahlo. The reading will argue out the portraits importance as they are presented as a reflection of the experiences that she goes through until her death.Importantly, the arguments will go outside the artistic point to propose the knowledge that can be drawn from such experiences.Furthermore, and it will also guide to comprehension of the problems that female’s experience. Her different experiences in life drive her to paint her own portraits. Some of them are childhood based, marital experiences, and self perceptions among others.
She had changed her date of birth from 1907 to coincide with the date of Mexican revolution which took place in 1910.During her young age, she experienced health problems. At the age of 6, she suffered from polio that affected parts of her body. She also suffered traffic accidents that left her paralyzed. A portrait of the Mexican artist Fridah Kahlo (Nikolas Murray, 1940) has shown below presents her image with several other objects around her.
She has worn a thorn necklace and a hummingbird hanging on it. She seems to be sad or frustrated. Behind her, there is a black cat on her left side and a baby monkey on her right side. There is also a background decorated with dark-colored flowers filling the region and only one bright yellow colored flower. She has worn a white garment. In this image the thorns are representing the suffering and the pain experienced during that period. There were a lot of political and cultural problems during her tender age. Khalo explain the problems experienced in that period. She had suffered from polio disease when she was six years. She had also had traffic accidents especially during her teen age which left her to suffer for the rest of her life. Her three pregnancies had to be terminated because of her health problems. In this case suffering seems to be the overriding theme with only a little ounce of hope being left in her. To a greater extent she uses the image to express her emotions, suffering and pain.
The garment that she has worn could be signifying peace. During her tender age there were many problems that were experienced in the society. The story of her life also informs that she wore tall and bright clothes especially the dress. This was meant to disguise herself and hide the effects that the accidents had on her leg. The white robe could however be signifying innocence. This can be ironical since she contends that she was born a bitch.From her story, she flirts with both men and women whom she engages with sexual relationships.
The artistic work of Khalo also brings the understanding of the problematic relationship between the gender, culture and nationalism. This was specifically during the post-colonial period after the Mexican revolution that took place in 1910. (Kibey A, 2001).
From the image above, she is wearing the traditional Mexican dress. This could be symbolic of her refusal to be dependent on French and American capitalists. She might therefore be showing her liberation. Rivera her husband is quoted saying at one point, “The classic Mexican dress is created by people for people. There was a popular believe that wearing clothes designed by other countries was a sign of mental and emotional corruption. The dress might be a representation of her recognition of Aztec cultur.She shows strength of mind and conviction. There is also an aspect of a feeling of national pride as well as revolutionary zeal. This was a strong step by Khalo of showing respect for the rules and regulations laid down by the society.
Figure 15 shows a portrait of Khalo dressed like a boy before she married Rivera. It is evident that her use of costumes explains issues beyond her own experiences. She wore like a man intentionally to show her interest to issues of gender. The dress she wore also conveyed cultural meanings. For instance, the dress she wore from the Tehuantepic where women were socially and economically stable. She also wore flowers in her hair in addition to the men’s trousers.
Wearing of a crossed shawl could be a symbolic of representation of female fighters during the Mexican revolution. To a large extent she also wore the traditional dress to signify her solidarity with the suffering and the oppressed Mexican. This was meant to revive the power and the position of women in drastically changing society. For example, her changing of date of birth from 1907 to 1910 to coincide with the Mexican revolution at an early age showed her political aspiration. The end of 19th century saw the economic decline in Mexico under the dictatorial leadership of Porfirio Diaz. Poverty rate was high and the state resources were concentrated among the few elites.
Most of the havoc that was evident in Mexico during the time was the dilemma that arose between retaining the traditions and identity versus modernization. Frida in the course of her life witnessed social and political instability more so at a tender age. She constantly identified herself with the poor and the suffering despite her close relatives’ prosperity.
Khalo shows her intellectual capacity by her images. She also shows enthusiasm in the way she indulges in political ideas. Her imagery draws her into a lifelong passion although she seems to fail by engaging in destructive relationships that leads her to turmoil. Her work is greatly characterized by juxtaposition of politics, religion and gender. There are also other significant opposites brought out in the art such as light and dark, male and female, ancient and modern. Although she seems to be disinterested with studies as evident by the advice she gives her friend, she has the ability to use her talent of painting to address different issues. It is ironical that she attempts to view education as unnecessary while at the same time she is seen to continue with her exploratory studies which are aimed at enlightening her.
Most of her experiences has emanated from the historical evidences she has seen in México. For instance, she has been in touch with other portraits. These impart a lot of knowledge to her and she struggles to make her personal portraits that depict the different problems and events that have been happening in the society.
It is expected that because her mother is a devoted catholic Christian, she should is also expected to be a Christian.Ironically,she engages herself in politics and ideas that are her main ambitions. In a nutshell her presentations of the different portraits are aimed at delivering certain relevant knowledge from both the private and the public arena.