Frida Kahlo's Mexican heritage, home and culture figured prominently in her artwork and self-identity. Begin this activity by starting a general discussion with your child about Frida's life. Using the film or the resources on this Web site, familiarize yourself with Frida's circumstances and the way her life was reflected in her artwork. Explain to your child how artists are inspired by the world around them and some ways that Frida in particular used her art to express not only her emotions but her physical being as well.
Optional Viewing Segments
You may choose to watch the following segments from the documentary which deal with Frida's childhood, health and cultural influences. (0:00:00-0:14:30; 0:24:30-0:28:00)
After your discussion, make a list of the aspects of Frida's life that are reflected in her work and the ways that they come into play in her paintings. Examine her use, for example of traditional Mexican dress, religious artifacts, indigenous natural elements such as plants, animals, and fruit; and traditional objects such as masks, pottery and jewelry.
Together, take a look at the painting Self-Portrait on the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States, either on this Web site or in a book at your local library.
Painted while she and her husband Diego Rivera were in the United States, this painting reveals Frida's striking wit and her love of Mexico. Frida painted herself in "proper" attire: a long, pink dress and lacy gloves. However, she shuns propriety with a cigarette in her left hand and a small Mexican flag in her right. The sun and the moon are in the same Mexican sky, echoing Mexican notions of duality and Christian symbolism involving eclipses and the crucifixion. Frida is critical of the United States and its billowing, lifeless smokestacks, brick buildings, factories and skyscrapers. On the left of the painting, the Mexican sun radiates life and energy, and plants are rooted into the ground; on the right, American buildings radiate light and machines are rooted by electrical cords into a pedestal on which Frida stands.
Examine critically each of these elements and ask your child what does he/she see?
With middle and high school students, further the discussion by asking the following questions:
What is Frida saying about her culture and heritage in this painting?
For elementary school students, further the discussion by asking the following questions:
How does this painting reflect her life experiences?
How does the painting reflect the way in which Frida fits herself into both the traditional and artistic worlds in which she lived and worked?
In what ways does this painting reflect her socio-political beliefs?
Do these references make her life experiences more compelling, more poignant?
What do you see in the picture?
Have your child take the time to get to know the painting by observing it closely, making a list of its details, and writing a description of it. Such an exercise will help children understand the value of careful observation. It may also help them learn how to look at and truly see a work of art for the first time. Share your descriptions with each other. How do they differ? How are they similar?
What does this painting tell you about Frida Kahlo?
What does this painting tell you about Mexico?
What does it tell you about the way Frida sees the United States?
What is most interesting to you about the picture?
What questions would you ask Frida if you could discuss this painting with her?
What other questions would you ask Frida about her artwork in general?
Next, work with your child to take on the artist's role. Think about your immediate world - your culture, heritage, where you live, how you dress, holidays you celebrate - and make a list of things that are most important to you from this immediate world. Then, become artists of any sort and talk about which of these elements you would include in your work and how you might mesh them with your personal life experience.
Explain to your child that one of the greatest qualities of art is the way it "speaks" to each one of us. People may share opinions about a work of art and even feel similar emotional responses, but ultimately our reactions to art and our interpretations of it are as individual as we are.
For the final step, you can put your imagination to work and translate your ideas into a joint or individual artwork!
Optional Activity A (for elementary students)
To learn more about Mexican culture, explore some of the country's holidays. Select one that you would like to celebrate and assemble its required accoutrements - food, games, artifacts, etc. Invite friends to participate in the festivities. Sites that can jumpstart your search:
This online guide to Mexico page lists official and religious Mexican holidays, with links to additional information about each holiday.
Mexico for Kids
This page, designed for children, lists several holidays celebrated in Mexico, and descriptions of each.
Optional Activity 2 (for middle and high school students)
Frida Kahlo's family significantly shaped her life as an individual and artist, much the way most families have an impact on its members. By using the film and the resources on this site, create a family tree that represents Frida's family. Indicate the different ways each family member influenced Frida.
Then, look at some of your family photographs, either of nearby family or family members who have passed or moved away. Talk about their personalities, share anecdotes about experiences you have had with them, and then identify at least one way they have influenced your family, as a unit or individually. You can create a family notebook with pictures and short narratives about how each person in the book had an impact on your family. You might want to copy and send it out as a holiday gift.
Frida Kahlo Paintings
This Web page has links to numerous different online exhibits and image galleries of Kahlo's work throughout the years.
Frida Kahlo Online
This Artcyclopedia page consists of links to Kahlo's paintings in museums and public galleries, art auctions, photos, biographical information, Web sites and articles.
This Web page offers date, medium, and gallery information for 15 different paintings, including "The Suicide of Dorothy Hale," "What I Saw in the Water (What the Water Gave Me)," "Portrait of Eva Frederick," and "Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress."
The Hammond Gallery
This page offers views of numerous Kahlo works, including an interactive discussion boards for each painting where users can post comments about her artwork.
Frida Kahlo: Wounded Woman/Cultural Icon
Describing Kahlo's relationship with her parents, Diego, and herself, this page offers a personal look at Frida's life, as well as "or not:" links that offer alternative explanations of various events in Kahlo's life.
Fuentes, Carlos. The Diary of Frida Kahlo. Harry N Abrams: New York, 1998.
Herrera, Hayden. Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo. Harper & Row: New York, 1983.
Herrera, Hayden. Frida Kahlo: The Paintings. Harper Collins: New York 1991.
Poniatowska, Elena and Carla Stellweg. Frida Kahlo: The Camera Seduced. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 1992.
Zamora, Martha. Frida Kahlo: The Brush of Anguish. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 1990.
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