Inspiration: The Color of Frida Kahlo

One of my top inspirations, is Mexican artist and feminist icon Frida Khalo. Considered one of Mexico's greatest artists, Frida began painting after she was severely injured in a bus accident.  Her painting are not only beautiful, but also intense and full of color.  I have turned to her art for inspiration, especially when it comes to the vibrant and unexpected hues she often used.

It has been heavily documented that her art is a direct response to her life, which was extraordinary from the start.  Frida grew up in the family’s home where she was born—Casa Azul. Her father, Wilhelm, was a German photographer who had immigrated to Mexico where he met and married her mother Matilde. She had two older sisters, Matilde and Adriana, and a younger sister, Cristina.  Around the age of 6, she contracted polio, which caused her to be bedridden for nine months. While she did recover from the illness, she limped when she walked. Her father encouraged her to play soccer, go swimming, and even wrestle—highly unusual moves for a girl at the time—to help aid in her recovery.

Photo of young Frida
by her father Guillermo

In 1922, Kahlo enrolled at the renowned National Preparatory School. She was one of the few female students to attend the school, and she became known for her jovial spirit and her love of traditional and colorful clothes and jewelry.  Here she met future husband Diego Rivera, who was working on a mural at her school. While at school, Kahlo hung out with a group of politically and intellectually like-minded students. On September 17, 1925, Kahlo was traveling on a bus when the vehicle collided with a streetcar. As a result of the collision, Kahlo suffered serious injuries and stayed at the Red Cross Hospital in Mexico City for several weeks. She began painting during her recovery and finished her first self-portrait the following year.  The rest is history.

Frida and husband Diego Rivera

I have always been very captivated by her art because Khalo's style is truly original and unique.  Most of her portraits show her wearing intricate hair and accessories and her use of color is very modern, with a flair for the folkloric.  I find al of this very inspirational, especially when I'm working with multicolored gems.  Mixing colors is very hard, and Frida was a true master.  The pictures of her colorful portraits always resurface when I'm working. 

While she never considered herself a Surrealist, Kahlo befriended one of the primary figures in that artistic and literary movement, Andre Breton, another one of my faves, in 1938. That same year, she had a major exhibition at a New York City gallery, selling half of the 25 paintings shown.  In 1939, Kahlo went to live in Paris for a while. There she exhibited some of her paintings and developed friendships such artists as Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso. She divorced Rivera later that year. During this time, she painted one of her most famous works, The Two Fridas (1939). The paintings shows two versions of the artist sitting side by side, with both of their hearts exposed.These figures are believed to represent “unloved” and “loved” versions of Kahlo.

Kahlo shared her physical challenges through her art and her use of color. Around this time, she had several surgeries and wore special corsets to try to fix her back. She would continue to seek a variety of treatments for her chronic physical pain with little success.  Her health issues became nearly all-consuming in 1950, yet she continued to paint and support political causes despite having limited mobility. Even through the pain, she never stopped painting.  About a week after her forty-seventh birthday, Kahlo died on July 13 at her beloved Blue House. 

Since her death, Kahlo’s fame as an artist has only grown. In 1958, her beloved Blue House was opened as a museum, and in the 1970's the feminist movement led to renewed interest in her life and work, as Kahlo was viewed by many as an icon of female creativity.  Since I have known of Frida and her work, I have continued to be fascinated by her spirit.  Her wonderful and biographical paintings are more than anything a testament of her bravery as an artist, something I really aspire to, and admire. 

Some of my surrealism inspired rings...

From top to bottom:
Cornaline, quartz and diamond ring,
Tiger's eye, green tsavorite and diamond statement ring,
Citrine and diamond cocktail ring.
All handmade in 18kt gold

When I was studying in Europe I was very fortunate to see some of her beautiful art. Her colorful paintings and Latin American imagery are very iconic and immensely inspiring. I have yet to discuss this talented woman with anyone who has disliked her art, her vision, or her unique use of color. Her feminine themes are very familiar to me, as I am always trying to tell a woman's story when I am designing a piece of jewelry. Like Frida sometimes I use color, and other time, like when I work with diamonds for example, it's the absence of it. 

Frida Colors:
From my charmed collection here is the
butterfly in amazonite, cornaline and tsavorite.
All surrounded by diamonds and handmade in 18kt gold.

Inspiration can come from many places for me, but with Frida it comes not only from her use of color, but from the person herself. She was an amazing human being, a strong woman and an amazing artist. She drew inspiration from her pain and was not afraid for all of us to see. What a great lady and fantastic artist.

Love Always 
Dani K 

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