Long beaded Frida Kahlo necklace (above) by of LatinxzCulturaViva.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was one of Mexico's greatest artists known not just for her vibrant art but also her multifaceted persona, activism through her art, and lived life to the fullest.  She was courageous in the face of adversity and remained true to her own self. 

She is best known for her many self portraits  -55 in all - which features her iconic unibrow and her flamboyant floral head adornments and colourful attire.  Her surrealist art style was used as a way to explore all kinds of themes including the human body, feminism, indigenous culture, politics, postcolonialism, gender, class, infertility and even chronic pain. 

She was one of 4 daughters of German immigrant, Guillermo Kahlo and his mestiza (Spanish- indigenous) wife, Matilde Calderón y González. She showed artistic talent early on and was very close to her father who was a professional photographer.  

A serious bout of polio at age 6 left her with one leg several inches shorter than the other.  She started wearing long skirts to hide her atrophied limb and the many socks she wore on that leg to compensate. Her father encouraged her to do rough and tumble sporty activities like boxing and wrestling to help strengthen her bad leg. She even took to wearing suits and ties back then.  Later on, she took to wearing native dress with her signature headdress in the Tijuana style as she was fiercely proud of her Mexican heritage. 

Her disdain for what other people thought of her clothing choices started young as did her breaking of gender norms in later life. In her genderfluid self portraits, she deliberately exaggerated her moustache and unibrow to portray both male and female traits.

A clever student, she was in medical school when she and her first love, and then boyfriend, were involved in a terrible bus accident. She was just 18. Her spine, pelvis and a leg were broken and a steel rail impaled her. She survived but had to spend months in a cast, recovering at home. Her parents arranged for a special easel so she could paint and take her mind off the boredom and pain. She started the first of many self portraits then. Frida once said, "I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best".

She later married the celebrated Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera, who was 20 years older, after first asking him to evaluate her art. Theirs was a tempestuous and open marriage - Rivera was an incorrigible philanderer and even had an affair with her own sister. Frida also took both male and female lovers. They divorced and remarried again and remained so until her death at age 47. Through it all, they were emotionally bonded and had great respect for each other's art. She wanted children but could not have them due to her past traumatic pelvic injuries. She poured her emotions from her miscarriages into some of her art pieces.

She underwent over 30 surgeries for her damaged spine and wore many medical corsets on an off throughout her life. She was always in great pain. Her health towards the end of her life was very poor. The circulation in her bad leg became restricted and she had to endure an amputation to avoid gangrene. 

She died nearly 70 years ago but she continues to inspire all kinds of people today including jewelry designers.

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo ((Paul A. Juley/Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

Here are some of my favorite jewelry designs inspired by Frida Kahlo. 

The Frida Kahlo hand painted wood earrings below feature silk tassels are from SoleiEthnic

This exquisite Frida Kahlo cloisonne enamel sterling silver cuff (has matching ring) is by KimiliJewelry

These Frida Kahlo Miyuki beaded earrings are so adorable. They are available from JUXTAPOSITIVECA

I love how this pair of Frida Kahlo laser cut wood earrings also sports earrings!  Clever design from BeeYouniquelyYoursLLC

Polymer clay artist, ShopSerenitybyJan, captures Frida Kahlo's colorful headgear and her distinctive unibrow in this pair of earrings

The Life and Legacy of Frida Kahlo
 This video documentary Art History School's The Life and Legacy of Frida Kahlo : A Tribute to the Mexican Artist .  I highly recommend the podcast, Short History of...'s Frida Kahlo.  You can get the podcast wherever podcast sources you listen to. 

Before You Go :

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM