From an early age, Frida Kahlo lived a very difficult life. She was diagnosed with polio when she was about eight years old. This led to one of her legs being stunted in its growth, making it smaller than the other and more deformed. She was bullied by her classmates; they called her peg-legged Frida. At age eighteen, she was in a bus/trolley accident, which left her bed-ridden for a year and, after that, she remained in a wheel chair for the rest of her life. Later on, she married Diego Rivera. They shared a very toxic and unfaithful relationship. Despite all of the bad things that happened to Frida, she always seemed to remain optimistic about her life, about love, and her self-image, suggesting that openness could’ve been one of her remarkable personality traits.
After the accident, Frida had to lay in a bed for a long time while she recovered. She couldn’t really do much, but the one thing she could do was to paint. Her ability to paint sprung from her creativity and desire to express herself, even if she couldn’t get up from the bed she was in. There wasn’t much she could see besides the room she laid in, but she would hold up a mirror to herself and paint her reflection.
Frida was known for her self-portraits. Almost all of her paintings are about herself, her relationships, her life, or her family, but many of them simply consist of self-portraits where she would depict her strong and feminine face, and her very unique features. She explained that she constantly painted herself because she was the only thing she knew well. But this wasn’t the only peculiar thing about her paintings.
Even though Frida lived most of her life in a wheelchair, this didn’t stain her self-esteem. In her paintings, she would portray herself sitting down, as she could not walk, but she would paint herself in colorful gowns with elaborate braids and surrounded by all kinds of plants, flowers, animals, and colors. The fact that she would paint in such a colorful and lively way showed that, even though the things she went through were giving her more than enough reasons to feel depressed or lost, she remained strong and bounced back every time. She always seemed to keep a positive attitude, especially when it came to her appearance. She never lost sight of who she was or what she wanted, no matter whatever seemed to come her way.
She was also known for her signature unibrow and faint, but visible, mustache, which she would exaggerate in her self-portraits. Back then, it was unusual to see a woman with as much facial hair as Frida had, as it wasn’t considered a very feminine quality. Nonetheless, she flaunted her iconic look with pride. Some might say it was because she wanted to challenge social norms, others might say it was because she was extremely proud of who she was and what she looked like, and many will agree that she wanted to do both; show that she would never conform to social rules or norms and that she was more than happy with who she was and what she looked like. Regardless, she wasn’t afraid to be different or to stand out.
Frida was very open and frank about many aspects of her life and lived in it as creatively as she possibly could. She never held back in her paintings, nor did she consider any theme private or obscene enough to be excluded or censored from her paintings. She painted about life, death, love, and fear. She expressed herself vibrantly and portrayed her internal struggles, never having to hide anything about what she thought or wanted. But the one thing she was most open about was her sexuality.
Individually, Frida was fabulously sexual, and this was visible in her art. A lot of her paintings covered themes of feminine sexuality, such as fertility and sexual pleasure. For Frida, sexuality went beyond just sex. She viewed it as an expression of deep passion and desire for life and creation, for which she saw no reasonable cause to hide or repress.
She also painted about other aspects of feminine sexuality, such as menstruation and pregnancy, in their purest and most raw form. Frida constantly expressed her desire to conceive and become a mother. She went against social feminine gender roles but becoming a mother and creating and bringing life into the world was something that was always attractive to Frida and, soon enough, it became one of her fondest obsessions.
After marrying Diego Rivera, she participated in many extramarital relationships, as he did as well. She was always very frank and honest about her sexuality and the love that she shared for both men and women. Frida enjoyed exploring her sexuality and having one sexual/romantic partner for the rest of her life was definitely too depressing for her to even fathom. She was very liberal and adventurous when it came to her sexual life.
Frida had her fair share of female lovers and spoke very highly of them. She always seemed especially open to experiencing love with women and never saw a reason to hide this from the public eye, much less from her husband. She openly identified as bisexual. Frida was not so much attracted to sex and gender, but to people’s energy. Whether they were men or women, if they had a unique spirit, Frida would not hesitate to approach them.
Frida also occasionally enjoyed dressing up in men’s clothing and she actually made a painting of herself wearing an oversized men’s suit. In the painting, she’s holding a pair of scissors and all of her hair is sprawled out across the floor around her. This expressed the idea that she enjoyed playing the role of the man, and that gender roles would never be enough to keep her from being who she wanted to be.
Regardless of her many lovers or how she decided to dress, she was also very vocal and expressive about her love for Diego and how he was like her soulmate. The couple got divorced when Diego slept with Frida’s sister, but this was not the end of their romantic relationship nor was it enough to sever the ties between them. Despite her desire for new experiences, she could never let go of Diego, and she constantly referred to him as the love of her life.
Thanks to Frida’s openness about her life, passions, thoughts, and sexuality, she has become an icon for feminine sexuality and the LGBTQ community. Frida’s openness wasn’t always a positive thing in her life. Because of her blatant honesty, open mind, and broad view on she encountered many challenges, such as the separation from Diego and criticism from her family, friends, and society.
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