By Morgan Elyse.
Ten years ago, I didn’t even know who Frida Kahlo was. I’d seen the commercialized images of the unibrowed woman with a mustache printed on everything from buttons to shopping bags. Then one day I caught the Hollywood biographical drama, Frida (2002), on television, and I began to connect it with the images I’d seen in passing. After that, I became extremely interested in her work and her story.
I find it quite disheartening that Kahlo was not previously introduced to me academically until I took an upper-level college Art History course, and even then she was only grazed over. I guess something positive can be said about Hollywood and its bringing to light certain stories (however inaccurate and overdramatized) that seem to be, for whatever reason, less noteworthy to the world of academia. It’s sort of sad and backwards, isn’t it?
Women artists are and always have been, if not considered altogether incompetent as artists, underrepresented. So it can truly be valued that the Gellmans recognized Kahlo’s talent and cared so much for her work because hardly anyone was making it a point to collect women’s art in the early 20th century. If you know Kahlo’s work, you can also agree that it must have been collected, not simply out of an attempt to even the playing field or out of consideration for Diego Rivera’s wife, but out of sheer appreciation for the skill and beauty that was illustrated in her paintings.
Check back with the UMKC Women’s Center blog for more on Frida Kahlo this month. In the meantime, I highly recommend visiting the Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera: Masterpieces of Modern Mexico exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum. If you’ve never seen Kahlo’s work in person, it is quite the experience. Here’s a neat idea: If and when you go, keep in mind the ideals of feminism and gender equity and how that may or may not come across in her work and in the exhibit as a whole.