In Episode 15 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews the brilliant best-selling author, Jessie Burton, on the great FRIDA KAHLO !!!!!!!
And WOW was it incredible to record at Jessie's beautiful home surrounded by everything Frida: from mugs, cushions, candles, posters, to doorstops, Jessie has even painted her writing out-house 'Frida-blue' (!). What a hero!
I first found out about Jessie's fascination with the artist after reading a beautiful essay she wrote in 2017 for Harper's Bazaar after making the pilgrimage to Frida's house, Casa Azul, around the time of the V&A Exhibition. You can read a shorter version here: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/culture/a21341120/frida-kahlo-the-agony-and-the-ecstacy/
Frida is known to be one of the most iconic artists from history. Her image has been countlessly reproduced in the world, but how much do we really know about the woman behind the portrait...?
Born in 1907 (she always claimed it was 1910 to be a 'child of the revolution'), Frida grew up in Mexico City, but life wasn't always easy. Disabled by polio as a child, Frida was involved in a horrific bus accident aged 18 which shattered her body. After being bed-bound, she began to paint – portraits of those around her, self-portraits of her reality and her constant reminder of death. But despite all the tragedy, she never let herself be the victim.
A left-wing activist, Frida married her husband, Diego Rivera – the then superstar artist of his day. The couple travelled around the world and were each other's biggest inspirations, but it wasn't always smooth – something we come to learn the more explore her work.
Through her portraiture Frida documented her life: her dual identity, love, death, religion, marriage, fertility, infertility. Portraying truthful scenarios, Jessie and I discuss the constant mask she wears and the constant search for identity in her work, whether that be mixing her European and Mexican heritage, her two selves, and her constant battle with the impending doom of death.
I couldn't be MORE excited to release this episode. Jessie tells the story of Frida through a writer's lens, calling her "a writer's dream". We go through her life story, but also her works, and ask ourselves: what is it that makes Frida so iconic, so relatable, so empowering?! Tune in NOW! :)
Want to read more. Check out Jessie's brilliant books here: https://www.jessieburton.co.uk/index.html – available from all good bookshops!
Thank you for listening!!
This episode is sponsored by the National Art Pass and the Affordable Art Fair!
To receive a free tote bag with your National Art Pass, enter the code GREAT at checkout!
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by @_ellieclifford
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield