We’ve got so much time for…
AT FIRST GLANCE, Theresa May’s decision to wear a Frida Kahlo bracelet at last week’s Conservative Party Conference was peculiar, to say the least. Kahlo was a communist, after all, who counted Leon Trotsky as part of her inner circle; it’s hard to imagine her dreams of a classless society warming the Tory heartland.
But then again, tapping into the spirit of the iconic Mexican artist is perhaps exactly what the beleaguered leader needed: Kahlo is a potent feminist hero and an icon of strength, independence and triumph over adversity.
Born in 1907, Kahlo was struck down by polio as a child and left permanently crippled by a tram accident aged 18. This, as well as her unfulfilled desire to become a mother, caused her anguish, both physical and emotional. Yet instead of running from it, she drew power and even beauty from the pain (‘Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?’, she wrote), channelling it into those dream-like paintings that are drenched in symbolism.
Kahlo is a woman who refused to be cast as a victim, a bit-part, or a cameo to her husband Diego Rivera. If she were alive today, you know she’d rage against Trump and refuse to airbrush her photos. She was defiant and transgressive, challenging gender stereotypes and raising uncomfortable, intimate and vital issues surrounding the female body through her work. This is why her life and art still resonate and excite today (there’ll be an exhibition of Kahlo’s wardrobe at the V&A next year) – and why she endures as the ultimate symbol of female empowerment. Perhaps that bracelet wasn’t so odd after all.
Frida is an icon of strength over adversity
Theresa May wearing a Frida Kahlo bracelet at the Conservative Party Conference