Frida Kahlo’s legacy: Of Marxism and Art

Frida Kahlo was born in 1907, during the early 20th century global era of political upheaval, bloody revolutionary uprisings and world war. The artist´s native country did not escape such instability, and in 1910 Mexico was plunged into revolution. Kahlo´s childhood progressed therefore, amid a backdrop of armed rebellion against the suppression of the peasant classes, calls for land reforms and nationalization of resources. The rebels also rejected a European-style cultural template as the ideal, in favor of promoting indigenous Mexican culture. The political fervor and reclaiming of a more authentic national identity not only informed Kahlo´s own political perspective but, in turn, would have a major influence on her later artworks.

By the time Frida was twenty years old, she had already joined the Mexican Communist Party. A metaphorical relationship between Kahlo´s own disability and her politics is clearly evident in her painting ´Marxism will heal the sick´. The artist presents a self-portrait in orthopedic leather corset, as an embodiment of the suffering of the masses under the oppression of US capitalist forces. As the artist portrays herself as gently embraced by the reassuring, god-like hands of Marx, however, she is reflected as able to throw away her crutches, promoting an evangelic-like message regarding the healing properties of Marxism for society. Kahlo´s use of symbolism and iconography communicate as a political poster with rather simplistic reading. The divided ´good and evil´ composition of the canvas with use of opposing and familiar icons of war and peace, in addition to the saintly Marx and the strangling of the US eagle, are clearly illustrating a specific political agenda.

Even Kahlo´s dress and commonly adopted naïve, brightly colored folk style of painting, reflect the promotion of indigenous arts embraced by the Mexican Renaissance movement, and are symbolic of a cultural identity freed by the revolution.

She later commented on this painting: “For the first time, I am not crying anymore”. This painting was one her last portraits, and never got finished. The original title of this painting was this: “Peace on Earth so the Marxist Science may Save the Sick and Those Oppressed by Criminal Yankee Capitalism”.

There is clear evidence of the mood of Frida Kahlo in her artworks, which still remain in the Blue House, in addition to her sincerity and her stance towards the world In Marxism Will Give Health to the II Frida Kahlo refers to the trust in communism that was common during that age.
In this portrait, particularly, the artist conjures the utopian conception of political belief that could release her from her pain.

Image source- Frida Kahlo Museum.

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