Frida Kahlo is one of the most recognizable female Mexican painters in the world. She is best known for her self-portraits and prominent unibrow, challenging white and Eurocentric beauty standards. She is remembered as both a feminist icon and Mexican activist in addition to her status as an artist.
It is perfectly acceptable to admire and love the art of Kahlo, as she was very talented and had a lot to say about America, Mexico, and women. But honoring her through t-shirts and other material possessions is not the best way to immortalize her ideas. Every time I see Frida’s face peeking out from under a rolled-up pant leg or from in between a cardigan, I get annoyed. These people who claim to love her so much that they wear her face on their clothing or have large cheap reproductions of her paintings on their walls are forgetting one her most valuable beliefs; Kahlo detested capitalism.
She hated everything about it, and its inequality and pettiness. One of her paintings, entitled “My Dress Hangs There” (1933) was created in New York when she travelled there with her husband, Diego Rivera, for one of his mural. According to a website dedicated to her art;
“After more than three years of staying in America, Frida started wanting to go back to Mexico desperately. But her husband, Diego Rivera, was enjoying the fame and popularity he got from this country and didn’t want to go back. This painting is the result of this conflict. Frida Kahlo was trying to depict the superficiality of American capitalism. This painting is filled with the icons of modern industrial society of United States but implied the society was decaying and the fundamental human values are destructed.” (from FridaKahlo.org)
While Tumblr is not always a credible source, and can be very biased, I found that the community has addressed this issue very well. When searching the tag “Frida Kahlo,” you can find a lot of posts from users articulating why you shouldn’t buy merchandise with Kahlo’s face on it. Check out the following quote from user proletariangothic:
“Frida Kahlo disliked white capitalism intensely, so I would recommend not buying images of her on socks or whatever from big box stores especially if you’re white. What I would recommend instead is make your own art and design inspired by her. She taught underprivileged teenagers art in the years leading up to her death. Her class was multicultural due to Mexico accepting refugees from WW2 including Jewish people (she herself was half German Jewish). She was very pro DIY and I think would’ve been flattered by fan art that’s not sold for money.”
Long story short, if you actually care and admire Kahlo, stop buying merchandise with her face on it! You don’t need to wear a shirt with her face on it or socks with some bizarre portrait of her on them to let people know you like her. So throw your Frida socks out right now, because you’re not doing her any favors by buying her “merchandise.” If anything, make your own. That’s what Kahlo would really admire!
Note: The photograph of Kahlo’s painting was found here and is definitely not ours