Jane Murdoch Adams

 

 

 

Frida Kahlo Series

Frida Kahlo, and her paintings, are striking to me. I think of her as a figure of courage, artistry, Mexican cultural pride and political energy. And irrepressible womanhood, even feminism.

She was her own women and, for example, wouldn’t categorize her work. The surrealists tried to claim her but she rejected them, and their Paris elites, for telling her own story, with her own creations, in her own blue house.

Some say every painting Is a self portrait. I am trying to imagine what parts of my paintings, of Frida, are self portraits of me. I have not actually painted any of her faces. Her face was so entirely her own iconic imagery. So I made lino cuts to print her faces. Impersonal but knowing.

Frida and Diego Rivera were, in Mexico in the 1930s-50s, the nerve centre for artists, political radicals and international cultural icons.   Frida was a Communist activist who demonstrated, for example, with thousands of others against the US-backed war on Guatemalan peasants.

I did social justice work too, and I feel a sisterhood. I respond to her social justice exploits, the most famous of which was helping to bring the Communist exile-in-hiding Leon Trotsky to Mexico. He and his wife stayed in the Blue House with Frida and Diego, until she had an affair with him, and he and Diego fell out over “Trotskyism” at which point Diego threw them out. Trotsky was assassinated not long after.

Frida lived in constant pain from polio, a traffic accident, and innumerable operations on her spine and legs. One foot was finally amputated: “Feet,” she said “what do I need you for, if I have wings to fly?” The subject of one of my paintings. Her intensely personal paintings speak to people who are ill, or in pain – including me - or oppressed by almost any sorrow.

In some of my paintings Frida’s posture is as she was photographed, stiff and immobile because of her body cast and other factors. In others of my paintings I want to give her some of the animation she missed in her real life – flying through the air, metamorphosing into a Jaguar! I want her to reclaim her animal physical power. I also would like to reclaim my own animation....through movement and art.

I am excited by her devotion to the natural world of Mexico, found in her opulent garden, her animals - deer and monkeys - and toucans, and sensuous flowers and foliage. She was nurtured by the Mexican earth, as am I, looking at her work.

Frida had a crazy marriage to the infamously disloyal Diego. “I married you.” she said “You promised to be loyal. You have been my comrade, my fellow artist….my best friend. But you’ve never been my husband.” I can relate to that, too.

Frida loved her clothes! I love her clothes too. She assembled vibrant outfits, flowers and jewellery, and channeled her joie de vivre, grief and hope into statements of strength, heritage and beauty. I hope I am giving her clothes and hats she would love!

Why always three Fridas in my paintings, or Frida and a couple of other figures? I just always imagined starting the paintings this way, perhaps because I had done a series eight years ago called THREE ACCORDION WOMEN. These Accordion Women, myself and my friends Ellen and Milena, did wild and amazing things (in the paintings) we ran the Iditarod Trail, playing our accordions, with a team of dogs; we walked to Toronto Island, on the water; we celebrated MAY DAY playing our accordions. “La Lucha Continua!” I think art is more fun with your friends!

 

 

 

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