One thing is sure: Frida Kahlo is receiving a great amount of publicity and not just from Bendigonians. From all reports the Frida Kalho Photograph Exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery has attracted many visitors.
Drawn from the extensive archive of the Casa Azul (Blue House) this exhibition includes highlights from the personal collection of Frida Kahlo. The interests and obsessions that Kahlo grappled with throughout her life are reflected in this series of photographs: her family, her fascination for Diego Rivera and other loves, her crippled body and medical science, her friends and enemies, political struggles and art, the pre-Columbian past and her great love for Mexico and its traditions. (Bendigo Art Gallery)
Jane and I will report back to you with an account of the exhibition after we have viewed it first hand. In the meantime a little more on hands- of course with some help from Frida Kahlo. In the photograph above Frida is painting her famous creation of The Two Fridas. So let us have a closer look at the painting and the messages that are being sent, particularly by the hands.
In 1939 Frida and Diego Rivera divorced. From all accounts, Frida was devastated and soon after created Las Dos Fridas. She has drawn two identical Fridas but with two different personalities: the Mexican Frida and the European Frida acknowledging that her psychological ambiguities had a lot to do with the marriage breakup. Analyses of this painting all support the belief that Diego Rivera fell in love with the Mexican Frida, the image on the right dressed in Tehuana costume and holding an amulet which bears a portrait of Diego as a child. I believe this shows that Frida felt Diego expected her to care for him, nurture his creativity and ambitions as would be expected of a mother, a traditional Mexican mother. Interestingly the portrait of Diego is held in Frida's left hand- her right hand, her dominant hand is firmly clasping the other Frida- the European Frida who represents her as an autonomous artist with an international reputation. The European Frida is wearing a lacy white wedding dress perhaps implying that although desiring independence to further her career, she remains committed to her husband Diego. It is Diego who has abandoned her. The European Frida does not look quite as defiant as the Mexican Frida ( in my opinion) and her hand is lying in the palm of Mexican Frida. Again perhaps suggesting that her strength remains in her identity as a Mexican not an international artist.
Looking for closely that the hand holding the amulet containing Diego's portrait as a child, we can see that a vein runs from the amulet. This vein travels through the hearts of both bodies (see above) to be finally cut off by surgical pincers being held in the lap of the rejected Frida whose wedding dress is being stained with blood. Notice that the hearts of both women are exposed - to the grief both are feeling.
But there is another problem arising for the artist Frida Kahlo and her admirers. She is becoming, in the opinion of many, a commodity- an object to be marketed in as many ways as possible. Jenny Valentish looks at the merchandise bearing the artist’s image and questions in her article The Commodification of Frida Kahlo: Are we losing the artist under the kitsch?