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C O U R S E 
Sexing the Canvas: Art and Gender
Jeanette Hoorn, The University of Melbourne
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Frida Kahlo's Fulang-Chang and I
Notes taken on May 16, 2019 by Edward Tanguay
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
two portraits
1. self portrait of cropped hair of 1940
2. Fulang-Chang and I of 1937
aspects of femininity
Mexican artist
married to the famous muralist Diego Rivera
140 works in which 55 were self-portraits
"I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject that I know best"
had a serious bus accident as a young woman
paintings show her use of intense colors and use of line
her work is sometimes described as surrealist
but she rejected the idea that she was a surrealist
but she painted her experiences as a woman with honesty and directness
"I never painted dreams, I painted only my own reality"
1938, Breton described Kahlo's work as a ribbon around a bomb
a number of her portraits depict her with a monkey
portrait with spider monkey
at first glance it seems innocent and charming
animals formed an essential part of her world as an artist
the monkey represents a surrogate child, the one she was unable to conceive with her husband Diego
as a result of her 1925 bus accident, after which she had multiple miscarriages
she paints her monkeys and other animals with respect and tenderness
she kept a large number of them
an eagle, parakeets, macaws, hens, a dog and even a fawn
Kahlo had a very close relationship with animals
she did not use her art to define animals and humans as separate, but rather to dissolve the barrier
1937: Fulang Chang and I
we see a lavender ribbon that links the two figures
in Mexican culture, the monkey symbolizes lust
but Kahlo painted them with affection
holds the monkey close to her body
the color of her long, dark hair and the color of her trademark eyebrows are similar to the color of the monkey's fur
this painting is a reverent ode to hair
the hairy body of the monkey
Kahlo's monobrow and mustache
the lightly painted background enclose the two figures as if in a forest
if the surrealists tried to break down the barriers between reality and dream, Frida did so through her artistic practice
gave her friend this painting with a framed mirror, so that she could see herself together with them
linked subjects together
used ribbon to tie her body to that of the monkey
an emotional depth
steady and unfathomable gaze
she looks at us as much as we look at her
her paintings cannot be fully understood and appreciated separately from her life
a slight sense of unease in the painting
go against traditional notions of what is called high art
1940: Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird
monkey on one shoulder, a black cat on the other
bird caught
the thorns dig into her skin shows her pain from her divorce from Diego
in background we see tropical plants
entanglement, pain and death
animal companions
represented as an intricate and essential part of her world
1940: Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair
she does not use her art to sexualize herself
but to undermine conventional expectations of femininity
she returns the gaze
emphasizes the defiance of normal conventions of self-portraits
asks: what do you see, how do you see me?
and also: how do you see my spider monkey?
she asks: what do you think?