Frida Kahlo has always been a major source of inspiration for me growing up. I admired her ability to articulate and express both her femininity and masculinity, as well as her approach in constructing and conveying fluid sexuality. Her work is bold, innovative and raw. She not only produced numerous self-portraits, but she was able to engage in gender politics in a way that not only represented her love towards her Mexican heritage, but in a way that celebrated womanhood and individuality. Even though she is often categorized as a Surrealist, she never resonated with that assertion and believed that her work was simply a mirage of her life and story.
Every year, I enjoy taking a trip to the MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art) to meticulously analyze her well celebrated Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940. Oil on canvas). As a spectator, one will immediately notice the text written on the very top of the self-portrait that reads: “Mira que si te quise, fué por el pelo, Ahora que estás pelona, ya no te quiero.” For those who don’t know spanish, the cursive text roughly translates to “See, if I loved you, it was for your hair, Now that you’re bald, I don’t love you anymore.” There, Frida sits on a yellow chair in what appears to be a relevantly vacant space, holding a pair of scissors on one hand, gripping on to a chunk of her hair on the other. One will also notice that she is wearing a very masculine, oversized suit, while her hair is splattered all across the floor while her face remains serious and her glance stern.
In understanding the context behind this particular self-portrait, one must recognize the major inspiration her husband, Diego Rivera, had on her work. In fact, Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair was the first portrait she created after divorcing the famous Mexican Muralist (whom I also deeply admire but for very different reasons) and it is filled with symbolism and metaphorical images. As I had explicitly disclosed on my last blog post regarding on how I view and interpret art (that being that for me art is purely subjective), I feel comfortable in sharing my own analysis on this particular self-portrait and the ways in which I examine its overlapping similarities to the work of our very own, Steve Prince.
For me, Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair works well in generating sentiments of resilience, independence and self-autonomy in the same way that she is also able to make the image eerie, yet empowering. The commentary which Kahlo is generating not only speaks upon her divorce to Diego but it also touches on her own commitment to her own freedom of expression and fluid sexuality. She of course does this through her bold decision on martyring her own femininity by cutting her long strands of hair, a trait that not only Diego vocally expressed his love for, but a distinctive mark that is often used to measure a woman’s delicacy. By cutting her own hair and choosing to wear a masculine suit, Kahlo is rejecting the common notion that women are the most beautiful when they display evident qualities pointing towards femininity, such as maintaining long, beautiful strands of hair.
When I first viewed Steve Prince’s Second Line II, I spontaneously saw the similarity between that of Kahlo’s work and that of his own. In Prince’s image, one will notice the horseman fixed on the very center of the composition wearing a suit. The horseman isn’t particularly feminine and is quite masculine, although the expression it conveys in terms of how its hips are swaying can be regarded as feminine. For me, the horseman remains androgynous which I quite enjoy. Just as Kahlo did, Prince also demonstrates sentiments of resilience, independence and self-autonomy in the same way that he is also touching on the power of unity and expression. Ultimately, both images allow the viewers the freedom and space to dissect its commentary in a way that welcomes learning and THINKing.