Frida and Coatlicue

Many Mexican intellectuals including Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera sustained Mexicanidad, the pro-native movement associated with the Mexican Revolution.

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

Alfredo Chavero (1841-1906) was a politically active Mexican archeologist who enthusiastically promoted the re-appropriation of Mexico’s indigenous past.  Chavero wrote extensively on Middle American Indians.  He was the first scholar to make reference to Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess who wore a skirt made from serpents and a necklace made of hearts, hands, and a skull pendant. With such a surrealistic look, it’s no wonder that Frida fell in love with her and often used Coatlicue related motifs for her paintings. In her “Self-portrait With Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird” (1940), Frida portrays herself wearing a necklace of thorns adorned by a dead hummingbird.  Dead hummingbirds were often used as charms to bring good luck in love.  The painting was made shortly after Frida’s divorce from Diego so, obviously, she was devastated and used her art to help her purge some sorrow.  Photographer Nickolaus Murray, friend and ex-lover, bought the painting from Frida knowing she needed the money.

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

I would like to make a huipil dress dedicated to Coatlicue.  It would have a bodice made of skull printed fabric and a skirt of snakes!

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

 

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Copyright © 2016 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved
Bibliography:
Gaba, Xhensila. Frida Kahlo beyond the “painter of pain”:Kahlo’s artwork through the lenses of cultural and political identity. Retrieved 31/10/2016 https://www.academia.edu/3214913/Frida_Kahlo_beyond_the_painter_of_pain_Kahlo_s_artwork_through_the_lenses_of_cultural_and_political_identity
Helland, Janice. CULTURE, POLITICS, AND IDENTITY IN THE PAINTINGS OF FRIDA KAHLO. Retrieved from internet 31/10/2016 https://msu.edu/course/ha/240/fridakahlo.pdf

Huipiles & Me

At The Alamo Wearing My Huipil

My mom moved to San Antonio, Texas as a young woman and instantly fell in love with the city’s bi-cultural flavor. In fact, my mom wanted to be Mexican. She loved Mexican music, colors, jewelry, food and attitude. That’s why she went to Mexico as often as possible. And, like a loving mom, she would always bring back presents for me – papier-mâché dolls, hand puppets, earrings (I had pierced ears!) and Mexican blouses. That’s how I started wearing huipiles.

Juana y Pedro

But later, like most adolescents, I wanted to conform to fashion trends – bell bottoms, mini-skirts, t-shirts and jeans, etc. My tastes in clothing continued to change and huipiles were not a priority. Then I moved to Italy and, after awhile, I began to feel nostalgia for my Mexican imprinting. So, luckily, my mom sent me huipiles. Now, I can’t imagine a wardrobe without them.

Drinking Tequila with Frida

Thanks to Frida Kahlo’s popularity, huipiles have acquired interest among contemporary fashion followers. But, although she wore them in grand style, it was not Frida who invented the huipil.

Lady Xoc

Huipiles were worn by the indigenous Indians of Mexico as documented by Mayan lintel carvings showing a bloodletting Lady Xoc wearing a huipil (c. AD 709). And the Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, used a native woman, La Malinche, as translator who, as seen by codices documenting events of the time, show her wearing huipiles – 500 years before Frida!

La Malinche

Traditional huipiles are beautiful. So if you are lucky enough to be in Mexico or Guatemala, be sure to shop for at least one huipil. The simplicity of their design makes them adaptable for any body type.

Why Not Wear A Huipil?

(originally posted HERE )

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Copyright © 2015 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved

Frida Kahlo and Retablos

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, dreaming of a unified and independent Mexico,  sustained the Mexican Revolution and thus all things indigenous. They, like many other artists at the time, were highly influenced by educator and philosopher José Vasconcelos as well as painter and filmmaker Adolfo Best Maugard who both encouraged a return to Mexico’s native roots. This was the beginning of “Mexicanism” in the fine arts. Previously Mexicans, colonized by Spain, had a sense of artistic inferiority feeling that anything of cultural worth had to be of European origin.
So with this Mexican Renaissance, Frida and Rivera began collecting Hecho en Mexico. Their collection included folk art, Pre-Columbian artifacts as well as over 1000 retablos many of which are on display today at the Casa Azul. Collecting retablos was made easier for them by the fact that during the Revolution, many churches were closed by the authorities facilitating the appropriation of the retablos inside.

They Collected Retablos

The term retablo comes from retro tabula (“behind the altar”) and, in Spain, refers to the large paintings behind the church altar. However, in Mexico, retablo generally refers to small devotional ex-voto paintings commissioned by someone who wants to give thanks for an answered prayer.
The origin of a retablo is a need. And to resolve this need, one prays for help. If this need is taken care of, thanks must be given. So a retablero, one who paints retablos, is commissioned. The ex-voto painting has 3 basic elements: an icon of the person prayed to, a graphic description of the reason behind the prayer, and an inscription describing and thanking.

Personifications of Devotion

Prayers are generally directed to the Virgin of Guadalupe but sometimes Jesus or anyone of the infinite number of saints is supplicated including St. Lucia, St. Francis, St. Juan Diego and St. Peter of Verona.

Muchas Gracias to Our Lady of Sorrows

Frida found a retablo regarding a trolley car accident that so resembled her own that she decided to retouch it in such a way as to make it seem that the retablo had been made specifically for her. At the bottom she added the inscription: Mr. and Mrs. Guillermo Kahlo and Matilde C. de Kahlo give thanks to Our Lady of Sorrows for saving their daughter Frida from the accident which took place in 1925 on the corner of Cuauhtemotzin and Calzada de Tlalpan.
Many of Frida’s paintings resemble retablos in that they are narrations painted in a naïf style with an element of despair based on real life situations.
When André Breton saw Frida’s work, he called her a surrealist. But he also said that Mexico was the most surrealistic country in the world—relief sculptures of bloodletting Aztecs, Day of the Dead skeletons, martyred saint statues, imaginary animal carvings are all examples of this surrealism.

Wounded

One of Frida’s paintings is based on  a newspaper article about an unfaithful woman who’d been stabbed to death by her husband. The husband defended himself by saying that “it was just a few small nips”. Angered by the violence so frequently inflicted upon women, Frida painted the massacred wife (Unos Cuantos Piquetitos, 1935).

Recuerdo of Dorothy

Dorothy Hale was the wife of a well-to-do portrait painter but when her husband died in a crash, Dorothy was left without means to support herself. She decided to resolve the situation by throwing herself out of a skyscraper window. Dorothy’s friend, Clare Booth Luce, commissioned Frida to do a portrait for Dorothy’s mother. But the result was too hardcore for Luce who, instead of giving it to Dorothy’s mother, kept it hidden for years (The Death of Dorothy Hale, 1939).

Scissors Reflect My Solitude

When Frida discovered her husband was having an affair with her sister, she decided it was time for a divorce. Wearied by womanhood, Frida replaced her Tehuana costumes for a man’s suit, cut her long hair and portrayed herself with scissors in hand and locks of hair scattered all over the floor.  The verse of a song is painted across the top: «See, if I loved you, it was for your hair, now you’re bald, I don’t love you anymore». (Pelona, 1940)

Although there is no longer a market for retableros as in years past, there are artists such as Alfredo Vilchis Roque, Fermín Luna Sanbrano (or Zambrano) and David Mecalco who make paintings in retablo style. And, in the not too distant past, migrant workers from Mexico working in the U.S. also commissioned a number of retablos. Today, instead of commissioning retablos, many people simply leave on the wall of small churches photos with inscriptions of thanks.

Muchas Gracias For Our Refrigerator Full Of Food

Muchas Gracias For Your Divine Intervention That Saved Me From A

Muchas Gracias to St. Sebastian

I, too, have a passion for retablos. Retablos are not only visually delicious, they also represent the concept of gratitude. That’s why years ago I wrote about the Aesthetics of Appreciation and did a series of Cardboard Retablos. Expressing thanks for what we have has many benefits like reshaping our brain.

She Tried Reshaping Her Brain

A smile can automatically lift our spirits as can gratitude because both provoke chemical reactions in our brain. Both increase the production of serotonin and dopamine, the feel good neurotransmitters. Gratitude, then, is like Prozac. Some people take pills. Some people say thanks.
When you start expressing gratitude on a regular basis, negative thoughts are sent to the shadows. Instead of seeing the glass half empty, you see it half full.

Her Glass Was Half Full, His Half Empty

The more you give thanks, the more you realize how much you have to be grateful for. So why not make a retablo!

(Originally posted HERE)

Related links: A Brief History of the Mexican Votive Paintings That Inspired Frida Kahlo

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Copyright © 2015 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved