Frida Kahlo is an icon. For me, she’s the embodiment of a powerful, fearless woman. Her unique self-portraits and works that depicted national struggle in Mexico have captivated audiences across the world. She was unafraid to mix fantasy and reality – and to express her vulnerability as a human being through her art.
Kahlo has profoundly affected so many threads of my life, including my own artistic expression and understanding of personal struggle. When I was a teenager, Kahlo’s surrealist style first spoke to me. I was enthralled by the paintings of her dreams, and I imagined how much courage it took for her to bring the unconscious to the surface. To this day, I am inspired by her open stance toward a full range of emotional experience.
Kahlo has also influenced my ideas about what it means to be a woman. She personified confidence and sensuality - not with nudity; rather by her strength and state of being “in between” femininity and masculinity. She modeled how one could live authentically and not conform to societal pressures.
As a “Woman of Style,” Kahlo often wore European and indigenous Mexican dresses, the details of which appeared in her artwork. The cultural dualism running through her own life experience is what made her an unforgettable artist.
Finally, Kahlo remained curious about herself; often magically constructing her life with a brush. As a Latina art therapist, I have learned how powerful it can be to stay in the metaphor of life and self expression through color, texture, fantasy, and culture. And I have learned that pain is a subjective reality in us all. She is my muse in so many ways – inspiring me to push the boundaries of self identity in a culturally dynamic and colorful way.
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Maria Elena Marquez, MA, is a bilingual Spanish-English Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF #103470, working under the supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT. As an art therapist, Maria is passionate about helping clients unravel complex cultural beliefs and family pressures through the use of expressive art.