The year was 1991 and I had recently moved to San Francisco from my small home-town of San Luis Obispo in central
It was Dia de los Muertos and I was living in the middle of one of the nation’s oldest Latino neighborhoods: the Mission District. You could still expect mariachi bands at various Mexican restaurants, and middle age men selling roses at your table to make extra money. The neighborhood has changed dramatically and what was the family barber shop has been replaced by boutiques and hipster bars. And what do some of those boutique stores sell? You guessed it. Frida Kahlo accessories. Earrings, key chains, t-shirts, bags, cookbooks, and tequila!
I was in on it with the rest of them. Full on Frida worship. A good friend of mine, who happens to be a fantastic artist, made sure I had the best make up job in town. Of course admired her!! She was a confident, passionate, beautiful, talented woman. Everything I wanted to be. I still admire Frida and think she remains one of the most important artists of our time, but I wonder what effect all the reproduction of her image, and all the commodification that has accompanied it had on the strength of her art? Because, that is why we admire Frida, right? Her ability to convey emotionally charged subjects such as fertility, womanhood, sex, marriage, and identity is admired by many other artists, male and female. Sometimes I think that gets lost when so many people insist on owning all accoutrements that accompany someone as famous as Frida.
Over the course of the next few months of the exhibit, this blog will have a dialogue about those subjects. We will be inviting local scholars, writers, and even a marketing/advertising person to write about Frida’s effect as an artist, and the impact capitalism has on the strength of someone’s artistic work.
Frida for Sale will consist of five posts beginning the first week of the Frida Kahlo show. We will be inviting guest writers from different perspectives, and professions to weigh in on the impact surrounding the commercialism of Frida Kahlo and her art. Guest bloggers will include, Lorena Duarte, journalist and spoken word artist, Julie Hellwich, founder of the Smart Women company, and Juanita Garciagodoy from the Twin Cities arts collective Grupo Soap del Corazon. Each writer will answer the question, “ What was your first exposure to Frida Kahlo?”
Each of the blog posts in this series is open to comments from the public. However, it is not a forum. We want people’s comments on the show and the ideas it is raising. Our intention with the blog series is not to encourage the infantile conversations about Frida’s bedroom partners. However, that is a casualty of the mass marketing of her image, and would make for an interesting discussion.
You won’t catch me going to the Frida Kahlo exhibit dressed as her (although, maybe that’s a good idea!), but I probably will be wearing my Frida Kahlo earrings. Yes, even though I admire her art, I still have a desire to wear an image of her. Maybe that’s my way of expressing solidarity with her. Viva Frida!