e-book Frida Kahlo (Critical Lives)

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During Frida Kahlo's life, she was mostly known for being the wife of fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera. It was only after her untimely death in that she became an icon, a legend of modern art, venerated for her uncompromising self-portraits.

Frida Kahlo's work and personal belongings in major new show

But while Kahlo has become a posthumous celebrity, much of her life--and especially her death--remains shrouded in mystery. In this concise biography of the painter, Gannit Ankori cuts through Fridamania to scrutinize the myths and contradictions that riddle her story and assess her impact on contemporary art and culture. In addition to interviewing Kahlo's surviving friends and relatives, Ankori analyzes her work, diary, letters, photographs, and medical records to reconstruct her life.

She probes Kahlo's relationships with her family, husband, friends, and doctors, as well as her status as a communist and Mexican patriot and her mixed heritage.

The critical geographies of Frida Kahlo

Examining the near-fatal car accident Kahlo survived at age eighteen, Ankori explores how her health problems isolated her from people and influenced her work. She also delves into Kahlo's connection with various religious traditions and the way she constructed multiple identities and gender roles. Based on detailed analyses of the artist's paintings, diary, letters, photographs, medical records and interviews, the book also assesses Kahlo's critical impact on contemporary art and culture.

Kahlo was of her time, deeply immersed in the issues that dominated the first half of the twentieth century.

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Yet, as this book reveals, she was also ahead of her time. Her paintings challenged social norms and broke taboos, addressing themes such as the female body, gender, cross-dressing, hybridity, identity and trauma, in ways that continue to inspire contemporary artists across the globe. Frida Kahlo is a succinct and powerful account of the life, art and legacy of this iconic artist.

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I was visiting Mexico and heard so much about Frida. While marianismo is largely considered a Latin American cultural fixation, this Catholic emphasis stems back to the colonial period, during which zealots like Queen Isabella of Spain controlled much of Latin America.

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For Kahlo, rejection of mariansimo was not merely a feminist statement, it was a cultural statement. Photos of Kahlo in Tehuana dress with bright lipstick and flamboyant headpieces represent a deeply personal way in which she elevated the traditional cultures of Mexico above those of their colonizers. Frida Kahlo embodied Mexican pride in many ways throughout her life. In her appearance, Kahlo devoted herself to promoting indigenous Mexican culture.

She sought to appear as traditionally Mexican as possible in an unprecedented overthrow of the colonial European values that had long choked Mexico and much of Latin America. Frida Kahlo is deeply precious to Mexican history and culture because Mexican history and culture were also precious to her. Her deep patriotism appeared again and again in both her life and work. Her contributions to the mexicanidad movement and her dedication to indigenous cultures helped to redefine what it meant to be a mestiza.

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