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Popular Celebrity of Frida Kahlo

by Doug King | post a comment

The quality of Frida's production, her shocking themes, and her multifaceted persona will certainly continue to attract new academics to her study. The complicated and fascinating historical circumstances that she lived through, the rich Mexican culture from which she emerged, and the boldness of her worldviews, allow a multitude of possibilities and new levels of interpretation of her work which will encourage new scholars to discover and apply original paradigms of interpretation to Frida's oeuvre. Margaret A. Lindauer's Devouring Frida: The Art History and Popular Celebrity of Frida Kahlo points to an extraordinarily rich terrain of assessment that, though treated before, can be explored even further--a cultural and political level of interpretation for Frida's artistic production. Unfortunately the fit between the good intentions of the book and its outcome is not always completely achieved. Lindauer states in her introduction that the specific task she set for herself was to analyze "the language of interpretation and veneration through which the popular persona Frida Kahlo has been constructed". The proposed topic is fascinating, but Lindauer's bibliographical references are not quite adequate. Lindauer criticizes the methodology of the so-called first generation critics who, by focusing exclusively on the rediscovery of forgotten masters, did not disrupt "the masculine paradigm of great artists". Her text inexcusably ignores some of the most important scholarly books on Frida by Latin-American authors, like Bartra, Rico, and del Conde who, as mentioned, have already addressed the impact of social and political issues on Frida's work which Lindauer claims to formulate for the first time. Lindauer does not prove to have done much primary research, and her critical readings of the works do not always compensate for this serious handicap. She quotes, sometimes out of context, from the classical English scholarship on Frida, adds some semiotics, psychoanalytic theory, feminist art history, and cultural studies, and, in so doing, she believes to be unquestionably deconstructing Frida's classical historiography. Yet, at this, she is unsuccessful. Chapter I deals with Frida and Diego's unconventional relationship, their subversion of social roles, and the revolutionary ideologies they openly professed. It is important to consider that rebelliousness, even in the most radically oriented people, is usually not an all embracing and one-dimensional form of behavior which wholeheartedly permeates every single detail of their personal lives. In the work of both Frida and Diego, like in those of any great artist, there are frequent contradictions. In many cases it becomes apparent that despite their openness and unconventional mores, probably as a result of education, cultural background, and historical and intimate personal circumstances, the artists unconsciously assimilated and perpetuated certain very moderate life aspirations and social roles which are keenly absent from Lindauer's text. Reference: Frida paintings and Diego paintings

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