Not quite finished with Frida

Since my blog post about the Frida Kahlo exhibition a few days ago, I have been circling the subject a bit more, and a few innocent google fact-check missions led me to a lot of articles, reviews of the show at Arken, and so on. This was really interesting, as I hadn't really followed any of this, and the reviews were quite mixed. Some were enthusiastic, as I was, because of the collage like quality of the exhibition - based on the curatorial notion, that the many aspects of Frida, including Frida the myth and Frida the image (aka Frida the poser), could form a sort of interesting whole, I guess.

One review in particular, in the daily paper Information, criticised this with passion - saying that it was very diminishing of Fridas work as an artist, to include Frida the self image creator as much as this show does, and even elaborates on, by inviting the audience to participate on Instagram, Facebook etc. She sees these platforms as vehicles of vanity, and finds the parrallel between Fridas self portraits and todays selfies, vulgar.

I just had to follow up a bit on that - and then I met  #instafrida - as you might call her. 

Turns out that the 'upload your own interpretation of Frida' thing that has been going on at Instagram during the show, has been quite a hit.

So lots of people got their Frida on, and I love these images - they are homages, parodies, silly, narcissistic, stunning - all sorts of things. Some are just plain dressing up and having a good time, and so what?

I can absolutely relate, and I heartily disagree with the critics that somehow finds Fridas endless study of  herself (she painted 55 self portraits and posed for hundreds of photographs) so completely different from todays selfie-mania.

I don't think it is all together that different, and anyone who dismisses all selfies as dumb flexing of muscle and strutting of tit / wealth / success, has not understood the function of the selfie, in my view.

We are all drawn to that mirror, and we all pose and we all wonder. We play and we put ourselves out there, for a moment. Anything might happen.

It also makes me more certain of the way I see her; as a fine painter, yes, but also as a pioneer performance artist, someone who was truly avantgarde in her open and yet mysterious investigation of herself, or the self, years before artists like for example Cindy Sherman was born.

I made a little instafrida-collage for you - and yes, I am there, in the lower right corner, with the monkey. A monkey was absolutely essential, I felt. 


  1. Great blog-post! A couple of thoughts. 1: Even if the underlying motives for selfies and painted self-portraits are the same (or to some extent the same) there is a huge difference imo. Selfies - the good ones anyway - are often a spur of the moment, spontaneous portrait. 'Here I am - or Here we are'. Like demonstrated by e.g Thorning, Obama and Blair just recently :-) I don't think Frida or any other painter got that 'instant' feeling from a painted portrait taking hours/days/weeks/months/years to paint. The process of the painting takes away the possibility.
    Second thought: I wonder if the negative 'selfie' review (Information) had even appeared in that form, had Selfie not just become the Oxford dictionary 'Word Of The Year'. There is some irony in that. I think.
    Oh, and I just love the monkey!

  2. Hi Louise!
    Thank you - and I agree, of course, that the context of Frida, the self portrait painter and the context of the spontaneous selfie-snapper of today, are not the same. And the work processes, so to speak, are very very different.
    I think I used the selfie-term broadly, though (should have explained that a bit better), meaning: all modern social platform image making. In that sense our entire facebook or twitter profile (for example) is a 'selfie' or a self portrait. And I do think we are not that far removed from Frida, the self scrutinizing painter, in that way.
    By the way, she answered the question of why she painted herself so endlessly, with the simple explanation, that she spent so much time in her own company - because of her long periods of physical illness - and simply enjoyed painting a subject close at hand, that she knew well!
    But that cannot possibly be the whole explanation - she could have stuck with monkeys, flowers and bananas, if that was true. I'm sure she had a bigger thing going on with all those reflections of herself,

    And regarding your second thought: Oh yes, exactly - that review seemed to be about so many other things than the Frida Kahlo exhibition. Or maybe that's just me (and you!).

    Glad you liked the monkey. It is - as perhaps you can see - Pippis monkey Hr. Nilsson, and that is not random. I actually had a choise of several toy monkeys (Eskild has four!), but I figured there was a sort of connection to be made between Pippi and Frida Kahlo, because they might have had more that the braids and the crazy outfits in common...?