Frida Kahlo, beyond the icon

Frida Kahlo, beyond the icon

“Her legacy will never die because many people project themselves into Frida Kahlo,” believes Professor Kathryn Simpson, who teaches a course on the Mexican artist at Concordia University. His work and personality continue to fascinate decades after his passing as immersive exhibition opens Frida Kahlo, the life of an icon at the Arsenal.

According to Kathryn Simpson, Frida Kahlo’s interest in communism, her bisexuality, her disability, as well as her way of dressing, of presenting herself to the world and, ultimately, her complexity, resonate more than ever with our times, even if it is necessary to observe its existence as a whole to truly understand it.

And immersing yourself in his life is precisely what the Arsenal offers through archive photos, original films, colorful artistic installations and even collector’s items. However, there will be no reproduction of the artist’s works, in favor of projections and virtual realities to “dive further into the new immersive languages”, writes the Montreal art center. The experience allows us to better understand the personality of Frida Kahlo, with many anecdotes that say a lot about her non-conformity and her transgression of social norms in the middle of the 20th century.e century.

Refusal of labels

For many artists today, Frida Kahlo represents much more than a model queer and overused feminist.

Lula Carballo, who published random creatures in 2018, draws a certain creative impetus through the depth of Frida Kahlo’s soul, her aura, her political involvement and her way of life open to others and welcoming. “As far as writing is concerned, it allowed me to assume the fact that one can transform the intimate into an artistic practice to make it universal and transcend the duality of our own life in a vision of time that would be circular rather than linear, confides the author. I was able to put words and tame certain things thanks to his way of sublimating and honoring his transversality with magic. »

The richness of Frida Kahlo’s character is also explained by her plural identity and a categorical rejection of labels. Anishinaabe multidisciplinary artist Émilie Monnet says she has long been fascinated by, among other things, the power of representation of Frida Kahlo as a woman of Indigenous origins. “Her freedom, her mixed background, which she carried with pride, her desire not to be associated with surrealism, the fluidity of her sexuality, her avant-garde are some of the things that have always challenged me,” she says. .

“The introspection, desire, femininity, symbolism and relationship to men and women that we find in Frida Kahlo’s universe in a very intense way have an immense influence on my work”, reveals for her part the artist Céline B. The Terror, who also recognizes a filiation with Cindy Sherman and the Guerrilla Girls. Far from an often idealized image of Frida Kahlo, she questions beauty and feminine stereotypes in her work, and in particular in her Self-portrait with tits which dates from 2013. “It’s a painting of me, a little sad, in a field, and tits are pulling my hair. I thought a lot about Frida Kahlo when I painted her, because she too used her emotions to create,” she underlines.

The vulnerability ahead

Céline B. The Terror also admires the determination of Frida Kahlo, even affected by illness and disability. Remember in this regard that the Mexican artist had suffered a deformation of the right leg after contracting poliomyelitis as a child and that she was seriously injured in a bus accident as a teenager.

“She often depicted herself open-hearted or bleeding, as in Henry Ford Hospital Where The two Fridasand I find that this aspect is quite trash shines through in my works. I think this side gore resonates with me enormously, confides Céline B. The Terror. Frida Kahlo was not trying to embellish herself, on the contrary. The images of Frida Kahlo with her monobrow and mustache thus reflect a frankness magnified by a “remarkable technical expertise”, she mentions. A point of view shared by Lula Carballo, who salutes this authenticity. “Frida Kahlo does not hide her bruised body, the accidents, the body that undergoes pain, and that is encouraging. »

And Émilie Monnet adds: “Creating has become a way for her to heal. I am extremely touched by this process. According to her, Frida Kahlo’s resilience depends on this need to express her inner torments in order to turn them into something that belongs to the order of beauty. “She was damaged by life and, at the same time, she managed to transform this ordeal into poetry. She is not a victim, adds Émilie Monnet. His way of borrowing from the subconscious, from dreams, from a more invisible and dreamlike dimension surpasses pain. We all have inner prisons and Frida Kahlo leads the way to freedom through her sovereignty and self-reliance. »

Frida Kahlo, the life of an icon

At Arsenal contemporary art until July 24

To see in video

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