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Autorretrato En La Frontera Analysis Essay

Self-portrait on the borderline between Mexico and the United States (1932)

1)DUALITY. Through her photographs and self-portraits, she created a character that melted with her persona, thus she maintained a relentless seach for her personal identity. “Kahlo cultivated and promoted a public ambiguity that stemmed from her own personal work. By turning her public image into a portrayal, she transformed her paintings into actual mirror of her imaginary prowess… Frida is not a real person but an artistic discourse -a thematic leitmotif- on the level of speech, image, and public representation”.

2) MEXICO. The flower roots represent not only the cultural and family ties that link Frida with her homeland, but they also symbolize the relationship that Mexico holds with the United States, as they feed the American electric generator with their energy. The Mexican side represents the steady and natural cycle of life and death, while the American side represents a lifeless landscape, inflicted byt the overpowering technological advances. “It clearly reflects the interest that Frida nurtered over the course of her tormented life: her art and political struggle, her images of Indians and Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past. All of those amassed with Frida’s burning passion for Mexico and everything mexican”.

3)POLITICS. Frida belonged to a wide and heterogeneous social circle, which allowed her to travel and see different places, reasserting her political and social conviction. “The diversity sensed in their social relationships points at the fact that their ideological choices were result of genuine personal convitcion rather than a symtopm of resentment or alienation”.

3)IDENTITY. Both in pictures and in paintings. Frida always posed staring directly into the front, in a challenging and haughty attitude, showing the same strenght that was escaping from her body and that made up an important element of her identity. ” The picture does not represent the person as it is but as it should, wants or wish to appear”.

4)THERAPY. The gown and the name in the platform are different from what she used to wear and use (Carmen is her baptized name and Rivera her married name), implying that she represented herself acoording to the social conventions to which she oppposed. “Frida describes the mood crudely and somewhat ironically. She hints at the strategy she would often resort in order to face pain -either her own or other people’s-: it is as if by bluntly naming, writing or painting things the artist would be able to chase away the apin, or at least make it more tolerable”.

5) PHOTOGRAPHY. “Photography was one of the most decisive influences in Frida Kahlo’s work. It was because she was always in touch with pictures through her father occupation -Guillermo Kahlo-, and later on, because of her relationship with photographic artists whom she befriended.”

6)INDIGENOUS HERITAGE. For Frida, her indigenous heritage (on her mother side) was source of pride, so she expressed it in her lifestyle, clothing and in her work. “Her Indian heritage was a source of great pride and self-confidence”.

7) PAINTINGS. Many of the photographs in the collection served as models for the pictorical work of Frida and Diego. “Frida reproduced in her paintings some of the images that were especially shocking or moving for her…[She] even used photographic fragments in some of her paintings”.

All qoutes were taken from:
Pablo Ortiz Monasterio (coord.) 2010. Frida Kahlo, sus fotos. Mexico: RM Editions.

Please note that www.FridaKahlo.org is a private website, unaffiliated with Frida Kahlo or her representatives

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    • Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress, 1926
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    • Self Portrait Along the Boarder Line Between Mexico and the United States
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    • Self Portrait Dedicated to Dr Eloesser, 1940
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    • The Wounded Deer, 1946
    • Tree of Hope, 1946
    • Self Portrait with Loose Hair, 1947
    • Self Portrait, 1948
    • The Love Embrace of the Universe, 1949
    • Diego and I, 1949
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Self Portrait Along the Boarder Line Between Mexico and the United States, 1932

In Self Portrait Along the Boarder Line Between Mexico and the United States, the sun and moon hold sway only over Mexico, which was, this painting tells us, where Frida wanted to be. While Diego Rivera was busy eulogizing modern industry on the walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Frida was yearning for the ancient agrarian culture of Mexico. In her painting she is dressed up in an uncharacteristically sweet pink frock and lace gloves. But she herself is far from demure. As in her first self-portrait, her nipples show beneath her bodice. Her face is poised for mischief, and, again in defiance of propriety, she holds a cigarette. She also holds a small Mexican flag, which tells us where her loyalties lie.

Frida stands on a boundary stone that marks the border between Mexico and the United States. The stone is inscribed "Carmen Rivera painted her portrait in 1932." Perhaps she used her Christian name and her husband's last name as part of her pretense of being proper-she loved to shock Grosse Pointe dowagers by seeming to be shy and then coming out with off-color expressions delivered in slightly incorrect English to make it seem as if she didn't know what they meant. (In Spanish, too, Frida swore like a mariachi.) Or she could have used the name Carmen Rivera instead of her habitual Frida Kahlo because that is what the press called her in articles describing her as Rivera's petite wife who sometimes dabbled in paint. Rivera knew better - once in his awkward English, he introduced her to Detroit journalists by saying "His name is Carmen," and another time he called her "la pintora mas pintor," using both the feminine and masculine terms for painter in recognition of her strength and perhaps also of her androgynous nature. It is probable that he called her Carmen because he did not want to use the German name Frida during the rise of Nazism. For the same reason, about 1935 Frida herself would drop the e with which she had always spelled her name (Frieda).

In Self-Portrait on the Border Line a fire-spitting sun and a quarter moon are enclosed in cumulus clouds that, when they touch, create a bolt of lightning. By contrast, the single cloud over the United States is nothing but industrial smoke spewed from four chimney stacks labeled FORD. And instead of encompassing the sun and moon, the American cloud besmirches the American flag, whose artificial stars have none of the dazzle of Mexico's real sun and real moon. Whereas the Mexican side of the border has a partially ruined pre-Columbian temple, the United States has bleak skyscrapers. Whereas Mexico has a pile of rubble, a skull, and pre-Columbian fertility idols, the United States has a new factory with four chimneys that look like automatons. And whereas Mexico has exotic plants with white roots, the United States has three round machines with black electric cords. The machine nearest Frida has two cords. One connects with a Mexican lily's white roots, the other is plugged into the United States side of the border marker, which serves as Frida's pedestal. She, of course, is as motionless as a statue, which is what she pretends to be. With the high-voltage irony of her withering glance, Frida looks, once again, like a "ribbon around a bomb."

Frida Kahlo's Masterpieces

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