If you asked me 15 years ago who I was, I’d say “a painter”.
There are stories of me as a child coming home with ornate drawings, finger paintings, and Play-doh sculptures. This “natural inclination” was encouraged through summer art camps, museum visits, and eventually, attending an arts magnet high school in Austin.
In high school, I was lucky enough to draw, paint, and create sometimes 3+ hours a day, and spent lunch times in art rooms with my other “art kids” exchanging ideas. (Looking at you @laurenandcortez @starknakedisco). We were fully prepared to attend the world’s best art and design schools afterwards. Many of us did.
I don’t revisit this time in my life as much as I should. And unfortunately, I haven’t painted in over 7 years. (I know ☹️). However, I find it full-circle that I now work on the business side of innovation and design with people with whom I would have attended art school. Through it, I have reconnected with the value of creativity to push society forward, and include communities. I feel good that I have reconnected with parts of me that that intensive creative training hard-wired into my brain years ago.
Last night’s exhibit reminded me why we created the way we did, and why we must continue to do so.
I don’t remember when I learned about Frida Kahlo, so I feel like I have always known her work.
As the one of the few Latina graduates in my class from my art magnet high school, I felt it cliché for me to study, resonate with, or look up to her art; but, I felt like she was the only artist I learned about with whom I could see my experiences. It was a synchronicity, as well, that my style was very similar to hers (oil on canvas or panel semi-surrealist latinx cultural moments, mixed with abstract expressionism and portraiture, with a touch of the political).
My teenage years were not always easy for reasons I won’t go into here, but I felt her willingness to admit pain as part of her journey as honoring my own pains. Her intention to carve out a world between her indigenous México and the contemporary, influential rooms in which she found herself struck a chord with me, as I struggled to keep close to my Mexican roots and traditions, while I acculturated to American expectations of success to move my family forward.
She was the first artist to speak to me at a visceral level - despite the pomp and commercialism that surrounds much of her work today. So, I hold on to that.
I think people resonate with her work because she did not shy away from life’s ugliness. She dealt with immense pain, and she let us know. What separates her from many, however, is that she used that pain to make beautiful things. She used it to bring people together, make people feel less alone, and feel like, despite one’s challenges, they, too, could carve their own place in the world. Challenging cultural, heteronormative, gender and sexuality norms, she left her mark.
Frida showed that it is impossible to have that pain without some beauty to it. And, that it is up to us to decide to use it that way.
I’m grateful to have the opportunity to see her work before it leaves New York tomorrow (and my amigas who could join me). Viva la Frida 🌺