Over 60 years after her death, Frida Kahlo’s art continues to influence Hispanic heritage and culture. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Weber State University presented a free screening of the biopic drama film “Frida,” which focuses on Frida Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera.
The flyers scattered across campus presented the film as the true story of “the larger-than-life painters who became the most acclaimed artists in Mexican history, and whose tempestuous love affair, landmark journeys to America and outrageous personalities made them legendary.”
Frida Kahlo was a painter in Mexico and the United States during the 1930s and ’40s. Known for her vivid use of color, self-portraits and iconic unibrow, Kahlo’s paintings are still well-known and highly sought after today.
She was the first Latin American artist to sell a painting for over $1 million, and in 2016, one of her original paintings sold for $8 million.
Andrea Hernandez, the Diversity and Inclusive Programs coordinator at Weber State, said it is important for Kahlo and her story to be included in Hispanic heritage celebrations because she was truly one of the most amazing women of her time.
Kahlo told stories through her art, something that wasn’t widely accepted in her time, which is why she is often considered a revolutionary woman.
She broke out of societal expectations of the time by breaking nearly every gender role and expectation pushed on her. She was also an active member not only of her community in Mexico but also of the Communist Party.
She knew she wanted to go to college from a young age, drank with men, smoked, wore men’s clothing, had sexual interactions with other women and refused to be overshadowed by her husband, who was also an artist.
“She took initiative to be part of the (Mexican) revolution,” Hernandez said. “She was also a person of her community, an active participant and she couldn’t let things just pass without being involved.”
Lydia Gravis, director for the Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Gallery, was also in attendance of the “Frida” film and considers Kahlo as one of the most renowned contemporary Hispanic artists in history, bringing attention to Hispanic and female artists.
“Gender limits visibility in terms of availability,” said Gravis. She believes Kahlo’s art brought more visibility to female artists, distinguishing them from contemporary male artists.
Gravis sees Kahlo as a legend. “She’s lasted this long, so I think she’ll last even longer.”
Gravis attributes Kahlo’s legacy to the strength of her vision and the creative perspective she maintained while producing her art. According to Gravis, Kahlo’s paintings are unique, introspective and very personal.
“She was in pain her whole life, and she reflected on that pain and her personal experiences to make these works of art,” Gravis said.
Gravis and Hernandez both agree that the best way Hispanic people can continue to celebrate their heritage, both throughout Hispanic Heritage Month and the rest of the year, is by being unashamed to be themselves, just like Kahlo was.
“Honor your culture in any way you can, no matter who stares, and be prepared to answer any questions people might ask you,” Hernandez said.
“And non-Hispanics, do research! Know why we have Hispanic Heritage Month in the first place, and know about the cultures of other people around you,” she said.
Gravis advised Hispanics to learn about their heritage and to apply what they know to anything they create.
“Writers are told ‘write what you know,’ and the same applies to artists,” Gravis said. “It’s more authentic if you own who you are and don’t claim to be different. The job of the artist is to create.”