Do it like a girl: Frida Kahlo
by Sofia Silvosa
The two Frida Kahlos hold each other’s hands. The one on the left wears a victorian dress. The one on the right wears a traditional Mexican dress. An artery connects the two Fridas. The one on the left attempts to cut their shared artery but she fails. The sky is intense; there’s a thunderstorm. Their hearts are exposed and both Fridas look attentively to the viewer in pain.
I was in utter shock the first time I saw this 1939 painting by Frida Kahlo titled “The Two Fridas.” My ninth grade art teacher showed it to my class to give us ideas for an assignment; I was completely mesmerized. I kept asking myself what exactly are these two sides of Frida?
I now have some answers through reading up on Frida Kahlo’s life. The painting presents a split in her ethnic identity. The left Frida has fairer skin and wears a Victorian dress to represent her father’s European roots. The right Frida wears a traditional Mexican dress illustrating her mother’s indigenous roots. The work was painted shortly after her divorce from Diego Rivera, who always admired her indigenous Mexican roots. The Frida on the right represents the Frida Rivera loved and the one on the left was the one he rejected. Kahlo throughout her life struggled with her dual ethnic identity. And this painting shows a duality not only in her ethnicity but the personality that arises within them. The Mexican Frida depends on Diego as shown by her holding on to a small portrait of him. The European Frida is more independent.
I never understood why this painting stood out to me, but now I see how it relates to me. I also feel like I have two diverging nationalities. I have my Venezuelan side, which I associate with my family, my first language, and where I feel dependent. Then there’s my American side-- which I associate with school and maturity. I always try to show my Venezuelan side to fit in with my extended family; I strengthen my Venezuelan accent, talk more loudly, and sing passionately to Reggaeton. At school, I show my American side for a similar reason.
Like Frida, I also experience a dichotomy in my personality. I’ve always felt like there’s an internal battle within me between my “confident” and “shy” selves. My confident side is the one I exhibit when I’m in the classroom and when I lead. The quiet Sofia you can find in large social gatherings is also the one who passionately leads a class group project.
The painting, however, demonstrates the two sides supporting each other. Both figures hold each other’s hands. Their support for each other makes them stronger in this painful moment. The two Fridas both are Frida Kahlo. There's no fight between them. They are connected by their shared circulation. The painting continues to show me that I do not need to choose “ a side.” My two differing sides, in fact, beautifully support each other. Frida Kahlo has continued to inspire me; she has been my role model since I first saw this painting. My heroine who has taught me so much about myself and the world around me.