Frida Kahlo and 'Untitled'
The problem with the upcoming referendum is how touchy a subject it is. How its difficult to openly talk about it. We will compare this to a specific work by Frida Kahlo, known as 'The Abortion'
Art is normally open to interpretation but sometimes when the artists own experiences are involved then it becomes difficult to ignore the obvious. Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist, created a lithograph in 1932 that has come to be known under many guises. When displayed in museums it is ‘untitled’ yet many art historians refer to it as ‘The Abortion’ or ‘Frida and the Miscarriage.’ It is this lack of consistency that makes The Repeal the 8th such a touchy subject. With art critics and historians completely unwilling to comment on the appropriate title of a piece of work by Frida and how her fertility problems affected her life then why does a farmer in Longford have the authority to vote on whether a 16 year old girl in Dublin, who had sex at a party and became pregnant have the right to an abortion? I know this is an extreme case but still, it is a case.
Frida and her fertility problems are well documented. The text that accompanied the lithograph in museums state that: Kahlo depicted herself mourning with tears rolling down her cheeks. At the bottom left, she drew a healthy fetus attached to her by an umbilical cord, suggesting her unfulfilled role as a mother. On the right, an arm holding a heart-shaped palette for paint emerges from behind her body, as if to assert her role as an artist.’
In her biography on Kahl, Author Hayden Herrera states: ‘Frida’s body is divided into light and dark halves, as if to reveal the light and dark halves of her psyche, the presence within her of life and death. On her dark side is a weeping moon, and a third arm which holds a palette shaped rather like a fetus, implying, perhaps, that painting is an antidote to maternal failure, that for Frida, making art must take the place of making children.’
So with all these comments being given as to what happened to have this work created then imagine if Frida had to fight to have the abortion in the first place? How many opinions would be given? How many even matter? FAC, as a collective, believe the only answer is the parents, especially the mother. That is the only relevant opinion. Trust must be given to the mother to make the right decision.
In 1932, Frida, a woman of a Jewish father and German ancestors was already held in a position of heavy scrutiny. She had to sign her name as Frida Rivera, after her husband to even display ‘the Abortion’ in Detroit, Michigan, as she was so unsure of how her name would be received. Aside from matters of heritage and nationality, the big question that comes from this is why is it acceptable to display women’s body in certain circumstances without censorship but not in others? A beautifully sculpted body of a woman can be displayed in all types of mediums, whether it be an oil painting or a sculpture. Yet when a woman’s body is presented bloody and in pain then nobody is willing to show it or even give it an appropriate title in case it upsets the viewer.
This is the case in Ireland right now. We are having to vote on something that some find upsetting to even think of, but most of these are also men. A gender that will never have to experience this in first person. So why does it cause them so much unsettlement? Cause they do not like to view women this way. They see them as bodily vessels, who bring them children and the prospect of happiness. Yet they seem to forget that aside from their physical capabilities, women have the same mental capabilities as themselves. The fact men have sexualized them for most of their lives puts them at a lower standing immediately.
With this article we have tried to show the problems caused with even the question of titling something as abortion, never mind the act itself. Yet, we have also ignored commenting on the work that was initially created to start with. Frida Kahlo was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Her oil paintings are stunning, they display the mentality of a woman at the forefront of the art world while living in a patriarchal society. So why isn’t this lithograph viewed as the same? Cause society is still patriarchal. This referendum is about creating equality amongst Irish people as much as anything else.