I just came back from visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario's wonderful exhibit, Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting in Toronto. The tagline was "He painted for the people. She painted to survive." It was a multi-media exploration of their dramatic relationship and how their personal lives or politics affected their art.
While Diego Rivera was already a famous muralist, known for his political statements in his work when he met Frida Kahlo, she learned to come into her own as an artist as therapy for her extensive medical traumas. Working through some of my own traumas in my personal life, I really connected with many of the self-portraits in the exhibit that depicted visual representations of her inner and physical pain.
What struck me from a style fashion standpoint was how important details like hairstyle, accessories and fashion were in the crafting of her personal in art and for the public. In tribute to her ethnic background and politics, she adopted a style of dress that was inspired by her native Mexican and indigenous culture. In photographs that were taken of Diego and her, or in portrait photos by other artists, she always had elaborate flower headdresses entwined in braids. Her clothing was richly patterned and colorful. In her self-portraits, she often depicted herself wearing huge necklaces, or elements of nature worn like a necklace. There were paintings where she was framed in lace, evoking her religious beliefs.
While Frida’s style was not the fashion of her era, it amuses me to realize how contemporary her look is to our present time. The style of flower headpieces she wore was listed as one of the top trends of 2012 according to Etsy. I have seen countless photo editorials of flower crowns on blogs as well. She rocked the statement necklace before it became a “thing”. Elaborately braided hair was been the beauty blogger’s darling for the past 2 years. While her eyebrow grooming didn't become a trend, embroidered blouses certainly were.
Frida inspired countless women to be brave, to express themselves and to love fiercely, and I salute her.
Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting is on exhibit until January 20, 2013.
Photos, Nikolas Muray, AGO.net,National Museum of Women in the Arts