Art History preface: The Two Fridas was painted by feminist favorite and surrealist artist, Frida Kahlo (who, in my opinion, was one of the most interesting and influential women of the 21st century). Aside from the fact that she was an accomplished artist AND a woman (Today, artwork by female artists make up only 3-5% of the permanent collections in galleries in the U.S. and Europe [according the The National Museum of Women in the Arts]. That’s today. In the early 1900s it was next to impossible for a woman to make a name for herself in the art world, or really in any profession), she also endured an unreal amount of physical and psychological pain, that she was somehow able to overcome (sort of). She struggled for most of her life with chronic pain stemming from a bus collision when she was very young. Unrelated health issues caused several miscarriages, required at least one abortion and caused subsequent depression. Further, her very public as well as volatile marriage with fellow artist and much older mentor Diego Rivera ended in divorce after several affairs in 1939. She took these hardships (among many others) and transformed them into the inspiration for many of her works, usually featuring her own likeness. Which brings us to The Two Fridas.
This is one of my all time favorite paintings. Not necessarily because of it’s aesthetic qualities, but because of what it represents. Art is supposed to make you feel something, and if it does, it’s served its purpose. And when I look at this piece, I feel great sorrow but also optimism. She painted this piece the same year she divorced Rivera. Here she illustrates a woman split in two; the two parts of herself that independently feel whole. There’s the Frida on the left: a traditionalist. She’s a woman very much connected to where’s from and the traditions with which she was raised, who still loves her husband very much. Then there’s Frida on the right: a progressive woman forging her own path, alone. The pain comes with trying to reconcile to two. She must move on with her life without the man she so longs for. Some also speculate an allusion to her dual heritage. Further, the cloudy sky is a symbol of her inner turmoil (if you want to get super analytical). I’ve only begun to scratched the surface of this painting, but I think I’ve made my point.
I’ve always loved this painting, and lately I’ve found myself thinking about it a lot. As I said, the piece conveys a lot of pain – but I’ve also come to find optimism in it. Very recently my boyfriend and I broke up. For a long time now I’ve thought of him as my end game, and I love him more than I’m fully able to understand myself. So to lose him makes me question who I am without him. I’ve spent a lot of time making choices based on what was good for the two of us together, and not necessarily myself. And I’m realizing that there are so many things that I want. And though I’m sad, I’m also extremely excited about my future in a way that I haven’t been in a long time. I was with Alex for a while and during that time I grew a lot, and because of that he’ll always be a part of me. But that doesn’t mean I’m done. I’m going to take that part of myself and keep adding pieces as I grow, and together they’ll make me who I am. No one thing is going to define me. That’s what I see when I look at The Two Fridas. And though this piece was created with a lot of sadness, to me it represents hopefulness.
Side note: She only made about $1,000 from this painting, which is the most she made from any of her works during her lifetime. Today her art is sold for as much as $6.5 million.