“Self Portrait with Monkey” by Frida Kahlo
Written by Maya Fawaz
La Casa Azul.
The Blue House.
Cobalt walls stand starkly against the grey cobblestone sidewalk.
Green windows and doors mirror the circumambient nature, engulfing childhood memories in its shade.
Terracotta red embellishes everything, alluding to Mexico’s traditional adobe homes.
This humble abode was home to the Kahlo family, where a young Yolanda Calderón, my mother’s aunt, would often go to visit her second cousin, Frida. The Calderón family was filled with politicians, lawyers, and intellectuals, alike. The highly artistic ménage had an inclination to music and art, so it did not surprise the Oaxacan family when Frida took a liking to paint. Calderón women from the 1800s were all highly educated and none would have settled for being a housewife or succumbing to traditional “womanly” chores. Frida gained her feminist perspective from all the powerful female biologists, chemists, teachers, librarians, and writers that she regularly interacted with. However, these cultured women often practiced their art and music in private, partaking in these activities as a hobby. Frida, instead of simply following the status quo, rebelled.
Frida Kahlo found painting to be her calling, which felt erroneous in the eyes of the Calderón family. Her identity was portrayed rather scandalously for the time period and especially coming from a traditional, upper-class Mexican family. She forged her own path and constantly strayed from norms, advocating for indigenismo, a cause that stands for the indigenous people of Mexico, and against the ruling elite.
Frida explores the concept of identity through her art, drawing inspiration from both her native and European ancestry in order to voice political and social issues. Similarly, makeup has quickly become a popular outlet for the imaginative mind and an essential form of self-expression. It is unsurprising that people everywhere have gravitated towards the plethora of hues, shines, and glosses offered by the hundreds of thousands of brands in our modern-day beauty industry.
Identity and one’s cultural origins have become paramount in a post-colonial world, and makeup plays a key role in helping us define ourselves. Frida Kahlo would often exaggerate her facial hair in paintings to challenge our ideas of femininity and unconventional beauty. In a similar fashion, one may wear a bright shade of eyeshadow in order to feel more confident in their appearance or make a statement. The principle of art remains the same, the canvas is the only thing changing.
We have this incredible power in our hands, to paint a portrait of who we truly are through the makeup we wear.
May we speak through the pigment on our lips and share the insight we have tasted.
May we see through the shades on our eyes and tell stories of all that we have witnessed.