(Again, this is blog post is by Línda Vanesa Perla. #ThankYouLily)
Imagine yourself walking through CVS. Let’s saying your looking for your favorite shampoo that you just ran out of the night before. You NEED this shampoo. No questions asked. And as you walk through the aisle you say to yourself “Hey I have a few extra minutes and have also been meaning to buy some new nail polish for my gross nails so why not?” So you walk on over to the nail polish section and as you make you way through the array of colors your eyes fall on Frida Kahlo’s face. You don’t think twice about it in that moment because you realize CVS doesn’t carry your favorite nail polish brand and you actually don’t have enough time and you NEED that shampoo. So you run on over to the hair section, grab your beloved shampoo, check out, and head out of the door to your next class.
A few days later as you help move in your best friend you realize that she has bought, and is incredibly excited about, some new Frida Kahlo bed sheets and duvet cover. You remember the CVS nail polish that also had her face on it. And now that you think about it you have come to realize that a lot of your Instagram feed is full of Frida Kahlo references and images. So you stop for a second too long and your friend asks “What’s wrong” and you say “nothing” because you don’t actually know yet, you just know that something is not right.
So a few more days pass. You keep doing your thing. You keep roaming the internet. You keep going to all your classes. And in one class you realize you are beginning to cover the great Three Muralists of post-Revolution Mexico. As your professor lectures about their influence backed by a slide show of their work Frida pops up. He is standing in front some of Frida’s most acclaimed–and provocative — works and you realize the images that you’ve seen of Frida in CVS, on your friends bed spread, on Instagram, are not the paintings that you are accustom to viewing. They are not the politically inclined paintings that are filled with her innermost vulnerabilities and rich Mexican culture.
From that moment on you find yourself gaining a serious awareness of Frida Kahlo’s presence in pop culture. You being to notice how Frida is ALL OVER THE PLACE!
I began to ask myself: Is Frida Kahlo being appropriated? Is this cultural appropriation? And what does it mean when other artists use Frida as a diving off point?
So–after numerous attempts to get my thoughts into something that is not a dissertation–I came up with this:
My own understanding of even whether or not I should be commenting on the possible appropriation of Frida is unclear. I am not Mexican. I am Salvadoran. These are two different nationalities, identities, and cultures. Where do I stand in this conversation? Personally, I feel I share a stake in the way Latinx artists and culture is being portrayed by pop culture. Especially during a time when a lot of political rhetoric surrounding Illegal Immigration, Mexico, and Undocumented Immigrants is degrading and humiliating. I may be Salvadoran but my identity as a child of undocumented immigrants stands before the borders that separate Mexico. My identity as a Latina Artist. My identity as a brown body in America. However, how to actual Mexican feel about this?
Before writing this blog post I never got to ask my Mexican friends on how they feel about other Latinx nationalities fighting for the possible white pop culture appropriation of Frida.
Somethings, however, that makes me find solace in this confusing and heartbreaking conversation are the art and exhbitis that are currently also paying much attention to Mexican Artists–especially Frida Kahlo.
In “Making Modern”–a five-gallery exhibition on the third floor of the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing –Frida Kahlo alongside Pollock, Picasso, Beckmann and Hofmann take center stage.
“Kahlo and Her Circle” features the work of Frida Kahlo in the context of works by her family and friends in Mexico City; anchored by the MFA’s recent acquiring of “Dos Mujeres” by Kahlo herself.
I also can across many modern, young artists that are having a conversation with Frida’s work in the context of the questions I highlighted above:
An Inner Dialogue with Frida Kahlo
Frida mi vida
“Fantasy in variations on Frida Kahlo’s painting The Two Fridas”
If you want more information on Frida and Cultural Appropriation from another young mind: Sordxradical and Mohadesa Najumi
Now, I understand that I may have brought up and opened the door to more questions than I have answered. But I hope this post, if anything, raises an awareness to the way Frida and her image, her art, her life, is being portrayed through our every day pop culture.
I believe the question to be of utter importance to the eventual answer.