Monday, April 16, 2007

Reading Frida Kahlo | PBS | Art History

Our field reporter and ace incipient art historian from e493, Marta Borzuchowski, writes in with a tip to a cool Frida Kahlo website:

From: "Marta Borzuchowski"
Subject: Hey Bill!
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 15:09:44 -0700

Hey Bill! its Marta ! im been researching and working on my paper all week and stumbled upon this really cool website on Frida Kahlo. I am so amazed and curious about the meanings her paintings. If you go here it shows some of her most famous paintings with all the symbols/ideas right there. Just scroll over the paintings. Then that made me think--I'm not a film/writing major or any kind of art major--but i always wondered if artists are conscious of making hidden meanings in their work?


  1. ken foster2:15 PM

    Congratulations Ms. Borzuchowski for taking up such a haunting venture in the form of the Obscene Machine and Frida Kahlo. For a non-major, any course in English or ComLit can be quite daunting, especially one instructed by Dr. Nericcio.
    As for your blog about the Frida Kahlo website, I checked it out and found it biographically beneficial. Do artists, the tricksters and spinsters they are, create hidden messages intentionally in their works? If you play a KISS record in reverse, what does Satan say? These questions are indeed very intriguing.
    I believe that art is like life. Every piece of art is unique, filled with beautiful sensory details that, quite matter-of-fact, excite different senses in different individuals. Sure, the artist could create his or her piece to hold some hidden message. Or that hidden message could be contrived by the individual viewer’s intellect and imagination. In the case of art as life, look at Frida’s life. Did she know that life’s hidden message would come in the form of a trolley accident? That pain would transform her into a mythical artist? Just some thoughts…

  2. After reading Frida Kahlo's diary, I am so intrigued by her life. She was so paramount in creating a feminine subject which distinctly removed the "body as an object of desire" as a main focus and instead represented diversity, color and personality when rendering her art. She was ahead of her time and I feel sorry for those who still see her art as childish and without merit.

  3. Ashley2:16 PM

    I know what Marta means, I am not an Art major by any means, but I too am still fascinated by hidden meanings and/or messages in art. When you look at a painting, you are getting a glimpse into the life of the artist. In Frida Kahlo’s case, her life was plagued by pain and heartbreak, and we see this in many of her paintings. Many of the symbols in her works go unnoticed which is why it is great that you found this website. Another artist famous for weaving hidden messages into his work is Francisco Goya. I took a basic Art course here at SDSU and we studied different paintings by him.

  4. Frida was never one to gloss over her internal and external pain from that of her relationship with Diego or her physical health, however, I too believe that she left much to the imagination. If it wasn't for the discovery and highly publicized diary, we may never have the key to unlocking many of the hidden messages strewn throughout her paintings or be able to identify the powerful assertions she attached to the life of a woman and what it meant to be one. Subtle hints of surrealism are explored and hidden parts of consciousness are revealed in her work, leaving much to interpretation. Through the portrayal of bizarre and unexpected encounters retold on countless numbers of canvases, the possibilities become endless of what was really going on in the mind and soul of the artist herself.

  5. Melissa8:56 PM

    Since enrolling in English 493 and reading the Diary of Frida Kahlo, I find myself completely fascinated with this woman. As I study her paintings more and more I wonder if every thought this woman has ever had was somehow portrayed through the stroke of her brush. I feel strangely connected to Kahlo's paintings; her pain becomes my pain and I feel that I am understanding this magnificent woman in all her gory glory.
    Marta poses a good question about the hidden meaning within art; Kahlo does this beautifully.What fun is art without a hidden message?

  6. Jiwon9:31 PM

    I express sympathy with Marta’s view. During spring break, I visited MOMA in New York. Diego’s paintings are exhibited in MOMA. Actually if I didn’t know life of Frida and Diego, I would pass that easily. But when I found the name of Diego, I was lost in thought. What does painting mean? It suddenly occurred to me that I was looking for the relation between Diego’s life and paintings. However, in my opinion, I think that artists are not conscious of making hidden meanings in their art. I think that their thought and life are reflected in their works in a very natural way like Frida Kahlo’s case.

  7. Anonymous10:45 PM

    Matt Brown
    Engl. 494
    24 April 2007
    Blog II
    I too have been intrigued by the intense meaning behind the numerous paintings of Frida Kahol ever since reading her diary. With the background information that I received through reading her diary it was amazing to see the immense amount of pain that she suffered throughout here life. This pain and suffering can definitely be observed in many of here paintings as well as her art work in her diary. I have never really paid that much attention to art and it meaning until trying to tackle the concept in my essay. The amount of meaning, hidden and obvious that Kahlo puts into her art work is unreal and if taken at surface value the art can not truly be understood. For example the picture on the front of the blog, “The Two Frida’s” can represent multiple things all wrapped into one picture. Is she trying to express her pain over her broken relationship with her husband Diego or is it a symbol of here shedding her European heritage and fully embracing her Mexican roots and by the same time embracing her Mexican lover? I have read numerous interpretations about this picture in particular and it is shocking how many valid meanings can be pulled from one piece of art. Anyways, I have found Kahlo’s art to be very interesting and impressive and my attempt at interpreting her work has given me a new respect for art and artists.

  8. I express sympathy with Marta’s view. During spring break, I visited MOMA in New York. Diego’s paintings are exhibited in MOMA. Actually if I didn’t know life of Frida and Diego, I would pass that easily. But when I found the name of Diego, I was lost in thought. What does painting mean? It suddenly occurred to me that I was looking for the relation between Diego’s life and paintings. However, in my opinion, I think that artists are not conscious of making hidden meanings in their art. I think that their thought and life are reflected in their works in a very natural way like Frida Kahlo’s case.

  9. Angela Scigliano2:45 PM

    As far as artists go, Frida Kahlo is the poster child for the femminist movement. She symbolizes the female as a victim, her self portraits are a vehicle of expression through which she depict and expresses her emotion regarding her tasking and troubling life and marriage. Frida expresses so much through her artwork, the surrealistic properties are what make these pieces so visually stimulating, with symnols and hidden meanings that leave you questioning the artist's inspiration.

  10. Crystal Toctocan3:09 PM

    Frida Kahlo’s art has always intrigued me because they have so much meaning and depth. Her work is not just a portrayal of how she is feeling at the moment; it is an expression of herself. She reveals herself in her art and allows the viewer to share in her experiences. So in response to Marta’s question about “if artists are conscious of making hidden meanings in their work?” I believe that they are, in the case with Frida Kahlo. Most of Frida’s works were self-portraits and in her diary she even mentions that she wants others to see what she sees. I feel that artists are constantly including hidden meanings in their work because art is an expression of oneself and their desire to share who they are to the world.

  11. Jennie Duong12:55 AM

    Same here, I am not an English major nor am I an Art major. But it really does amaze me when I examine an artist's work and connect it to their life, which is usually the catalyst to an artist's work. After learning about Frida Kahlo's life and then looking at her paintings, I felt an intense feeling of sympathy, but at the same time the feeling of happiness. She endured so many tragedies and hardships that one cannot help by feel sorry for her. Looking at the paintings, you can see how she chose to express her pain, through the use of nature. Then one can also feel happiness because these paintings helped her express her emotions and it showed the world the drama of her life. It was her way of unraveling her life and making it look like a picture storybook.

  12. Ryan Washburn10:42 AM

    Ever since I have read/ screened Kahlo's diary, I have been hooked on her art. Mixing her life experiences with her imagination, it is hard to separate the real from the unreal in the images. Art imitates life, but life also imitates art. Life and art share a symiotic relationship meaning they work off eachother to their advantage, and Kahlo mastered this technique. Her love for Diego fuels her desire to paint, and she used it to her advantage. She also used the Earth and her bus accident to conjur up many of her mosrt famous paintings. With out these events happening in her life, her paintings would have looked alot different, if they would even exist.

  13. Ryan Codina9:27 PM

    When I was first introduced to Frida Kahlo's art in middle school, it was pretty disturbing to me. I did not understand her art and frankly I thought it was obscene and scary. However after learning about her life especially after doing my paper on her, I have a better understanding of her art. She broke taboos with her art which deemed her very controversial even personality-wise. But because of her perseverance, she expressed all her pain and anguish through her art which if you did not know her story, you would not understand and may even be appalled. Take her painting "My Birth" for example, a woman can be seen giving birth. Frida's head emerges from the woman's womb and in a pool of blood which could be an allusion to the child she lost due to a miscarriage. Also, the face of the woman giving birth is covered in cloth which may correspond to her relationship or non-relationship with her mother. Without know her past, one would just think that Frida Kahlo was a strange person. But she, as an artist, draws inspiration from her past struggles and tragedies. Sure her art may offend, but she's letting people know all that she has gone through in her life.

    Engl 493

  14. Anonymous11:16 PM

    I really enjoyed seeing her and her paintings in the book, Diary of Frida Kahlo. Frida Kahlo was a woman who endured a life of crippling pain caused by an accident in her youth. However, her innate energy, passion of life, as well as her enormous abilities as a painter, allowed her to overcome that obstacle to achieve a measure of fame and recognition. After knowing about Frida Kahlo's life, it was more interesting of me to see her paintings relate to her life. She is largely painting her experience. Her works are intensely personal, for she suffered great tragedy and loss as injured and handicapped after an accident. Part of what I like was that she was strong and assertive, not a passive victim. Frida Kahlo's painting confronted the previously taboo subjects of childbirth, female subjugation and the process of transformation from victim to survivor using revolutionary politics and sexual prowess.

  15. Lauren10:30 AM

    In the case of Frida Kahlo, I do not think anything could be hidden in her paintings. Most notably, The Two Fridas illustrated the duality of her identity; the one Diego loved and the other he did not. The exposed hearts connected by the same circulatory system displays how these identities are forever intertwined. Kahlo was accepting of her pain and openly displayed all of her disturbing emotions through her work.