Frida Kahlo, born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, is arguably Mexico’s most famous artist. Inspired by the country's popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society.
Her paintings often had strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy. In addition to belonging to the post-revolutionary Mexicayotl movement, which sought to define a Mexican identity outside of European colonialism, Kahlo has been described as a surrealist or magical realist.
Her clothing choices also reflected her determination to define a Mexican identity. She incorporated traditional clothing into her wardrobe as a way to show pride in her Mexican heritage. Much of what she wore carried both personal and political meaning to Kahlo.
Although she was disabled by polio as a child, Kahlo had been a promising student headed for medical school until a traffic accident at age eighteen, which caused her lifelong pain and medical problems. During her recovery, she returned to her childhood hobby of art with the idea of becoming an artist.
Kahlo's interests in politics and art led to her joining the Mexican Communist Party in 1927, through which she met fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera. The couple married in 1928 and spent the late 1920s and early 1930s traveling in Mexico and the United States. Rivera was by far the better-known artist, but Kahlo did secure her first solo exhibition in New York in 1938.
Kahlo's work as an artist remained relatively unknown until the late 1970s when her work was rediscovered by art historians and political activists. By the early 1990s, she had become not only a recognized figure in art history but also regarded as an icon for Chicanos, the feminism movement, and the LGBTI movement.
She had a tumultuous relationship with her husband, Diego Rivera. Both had a number of affairs — some sanctioned and some on the sly. They even divorced for a year and then remarried. Her lovers included a diverse selection of men and women, many of them well-known thinkers and artists in their time. Over the years, she had affairs with Leon Trotsky, Josephine Baker, Chavela Vargas, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Isamu Noguchi.