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Knafo, D. (1993). The Mirror, the Mask, and the Masquerade in the Art and Life of Frida Kahlo. Ann. Psychoanal., 21:277-299.

(1993). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 21:277-299

The Mirror, the Mask, and the Masquerade in the Art and Life of Frida Kahlo

Danielle Knafo, Ph.D.

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) has recently attained a degree of popularity and public fascination that is usually reserved for cult figures. In a recent article on her fame, Horton (1991) describes “Fridamania, the “current fetishizing of Kahlo,” and even the “vulgar commercialization of Kahlo.” Indeed, for years following her death, Frida was known only in her native Mexico, and primarily as the wife of internationally acclaimed muralist and painter, Diego Rivera. Over the last 10 years, Frida has begun to be hailed as a feminist icon and perhaps the most talented of all Latin American artists.

One conclusion clearly emerges from the discussion of Frida's current celebrityhood: her star quality and larger-than-life status are not due to her art alone, but rather to the whole of her life and personality. Harrera (1990) lists Frid's qualifications to be a cult figure: she was a Hispanic woman, a bisexual, an invalid, and an artist. I believe that Frida's appeal lies additionally in the special use she made of her marginal state (as woman, Hispanic, bisexual, and disabled). Although her art evokes images of a woman damaged and violated, it is nevertheless an art of empowerment rather than victimization. Frida gives birth to her image over and over again as she wants it to be. In her paintings, she retains her seductive powers despite the numerous assaults to her body and remains strong in the face of adversity.

Frida began painting at the age of 18 following a near-fatal accident, which she claimed “destroyed” her by fracturing her spine, shattering her pelvis, and crushing her foot. Her vagina was impaled with a steel handrail, eventually resulting in her inability to bear children.

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