September 25, 2005

Frida Kahlo, whose female fans have the "washed-out, slightly embittered look of British women novelists."

Or so says Anthony Daniels, in The New Criterion (via A&L Daily):
[T]here is something unhealthy, of equal intensity, about the disproportionate adulation that Frida Kahlo has received over the last two or three decades. I think that what has happened is that people with no objective right to do so have equated her suffering with their own, and have appropriated her work as a symbolic representation of their own minor dissatisfactions and frustrations, victimhood being the present equivalent of beatitude.

They say, “I too have known a faithless or a worthless man; I too have suffered from persistent headaches, dymenorrhoea, or sciatica; therefore, Frida Kahlo has understood me, and I have understood Frida Kahlo. After all, I have suffered just like her. Moreover, like me, she was a moral person, which is to say that she had all the right attitudes; she was on the side of the oppressed, at least those who were not in the Gulag; she loved indigenes as a matter of principle; and she took part in the holy work of dissolving boundaries, the boundaries between sexes (or rather, genders) and between cultures.”
The critic likes the artist well enough. He's just repulsed by her fans. But are we not a little repulsed at how invasively he projects himself into the thoughts of the women in the museum whose looks he doesn't like?

18 comments:

XWL said...

When did C3PO become an art critic?

Harkonnendog said...

Actually I dig the invasiveness. As art becomes more about the relationship between a work and a viewer, it becomes more necessary to critique viewers, right?

Plus this is like an answer to those who snobbishly dismiss Nascar etc. fans, so it brings some balance to the force.

Ann Althouse said...

The irony is that he seems like an embittered British novelist!

(Very well writter, actually.)

Larry said...

So ... wouldn't that sort of irony extend to you too, then? (What a tar-baby this invasive projection is!)

Al Maviva said...

He has a fair point. It's not like Frida was the only person in the world to get screwed by one marxist after another. Russia made a whole career out of that...

leeontheroad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
leeontheroad said...

[second try at English]

He may like her work well enough, but he calls her technique at times limited and then (merely) adequate. What likes, he likes for its relevance to his own experience or its appeals to his sympathies. Of course, it's just the simpering British women at the Tate who project their own needs and interests on her work!

miklos rosza said...

and let's keep in mind that it's madonna who some years ago began buying kahlos like crazy and thus drove the prices up.

Elizabeth said...

Reading critics' work is like reading their diaries; there's as much insight into their own personalities and conflicts as there is into the art they critique.

In the home where I am a guest, there are seven books on Kahlo over the TV, and prints here and there in the house. I presume my hosts are fans. They are both plump, pink Southern women as at home at a Nascar event as an art opening.

miklos rosza said...

it's almost nice these days to have extraartistic reasons to justify what one "likes." to like kahlo is to be virtuous, it is uplifting (because of her beatified status as ultra-victim).

because nobody knows what's good, and sheer pleasure is suspect.

miklos rosza said...

excuse me: i meant to say "always" rather than "almost" in the first sentence of my post.

Troy said...

I look at Frida's work and think 2 things: 1. Diego was a lot more talented. and 2. Where's Ernie?

If that makes me appear philistine the so be it, but I'm just being self-invasive.

jult52 said...

Kahlo doesn't much appeal to me either. It isn't the self-absorbed therapeuticism, although that's bad enough, but all those dogs and cats. This critic is right to slam the fans. One look at the art and I was suspicious about the sort of people who really like the paintings, too.

Dixie Flatline said...

LeRoy,

This is not the Anthony Daniels you're looking for.

James said...

My high school art history teacher (by no means a right-winger, as far as I could tell) once said that Kahlo was almost unknown at the time of her death and that her popularity was mainly a product of political correctness.

aidan maconachy said...

I've never really rated Frida Kahlo. I think she was a lot more submissive than the legend suggests. If you were a domineering male painter with swagger, a tequila problem and a horse whip she would probably have been fawningly compliant.

I remember being at a Picasso show in Toronto when I had the opposite experience to this critic. I noticed a group of femi-nazis who clearly reviled everything Pablo stood for and had come to the show to express their derision. This had nothing to do with the merits or otherwise of his painting, but because he was a woman beater. One of his famous sayings was ... and I paraphrase ...

"There are only two kinds of women - goddesses and doormats."

John Fowles, the novelist, also appears to have had a low opinion of the artist. One of his characters in "The Magus" refers to the master of modernity as Picasshole.

miklos rosza said...

There have been and are a number of great painters who happen to be women but do not have the same "cult of personality" PC mojo working in their behalf.

Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun, Berthe Morisot, more recently Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Agnes Martin, the overwhelmingly talented Eva Hesse (who died far too young).

Cindy Sherman. Jane Hammond. Jenny Saville. And my two favorite artists of the moment: the spectacular Lydia Dona and the perhaps equally spectacular Fiona Rae.

Google them and check out their amazing work. I know nothing about their lives.

pst314 said...

James wrote: "her popularity was mainly a product of political correctness."

I'm no expert on Frida Kahlo, but in my experience "progressive" writers and artists and academics have a marked tendency to praise or denigrate or ignore based on ideology.