Frida Kahlo- An Eternal Face, An Eternal Legacy

Red, the colour of blood, passion and it turns out…nail varnish is synonymous with Frida Kahlo appearing in her paintings, her fashion and her toilette.

I have loved the image of Frida Kahlo since the first time I saw her sometime in my late teens. I can’t remember whether it was in reference to a painting or seeing her mentioned in a movie, exhibit or TV show but I became aware of her in pop culture, and was forever struck by her art as well as her attire.

Scoring tickets to the Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum recently, I felt compelled to share in the wonder of this bravely honest and unique woman.

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Image: Frida Kahlo in blue satin blouse, 1939, photograph by Nickolas Muray. © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives

Movie-star lipstick, monobrow and moustache, so incongruous to what is deemed normal femininity, yet with meticulously styled and coiffed hair and always seen dressed in stunning and colourful traditional Mexican attire you’ve gotta hand it to her, she knew how to make a lasting statement.

Frida Kahlo grabs your attention even beyond the grave, which for any historical figure, and especially as a woman, is quite something! I find so many of our hero-figures to be dreary, chinless wonders, towing the party line but Frida practised her art in her daily life. Her enduring memory shows that there is also another version of allowed femininity, which doesn’t have to be cowed by any status quo.

This is the persona that screams ‘other’, ‘I am comfortable’ and ‘I express myself as I wish’. Some may describe her as a mix of masculine and feminine, but this does her an injustice as she simply exists in such individualism, that she transcends both. She was a strong person, a weak person, an expression of determination, sadness and joy who, by the history outlined in this exhibit, lived according to her beliefs and defied her limitations.

We, the public, never saw Kahlo out of pose, or poise. She staged the way in which people would see her -much as an artist prepares their models being her own subject both in image and thought. Like the Mona Lisa, her oft-captured half-serious half-knowing expression allows room for whatever the viewer projects, yet is insistent on rubber-stamping whatever conclusion you came to indelibly with her composed visage.

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Lo que el agua me dio – Frida Kahlo 1938 oil painting

 

The exhibit is an extremely intimate rummage through her possessions, her bedroom having been preserved and sealed after her death and only reopened by the Khalo estate recently for cataloguing. There are family photos, items she used, paintings she painted and clothes she wore.

We see this other side to her immense art, Frida as human-  her painted casts, special shoes, beautiful handmade clothes from artisans and collection of perfumes and pharmaceuticals. Her choices, preferences and vehicles of expression are on display as well as remnants of her pain and ailments- the false leg, the strong painkillers, pictures of the bed in which she died.

For me, like many other women and girls, who missed out on being able to see Kahlo in interviews on television, or in talks – word of her comes via second, third and historical sources now. This exhibit allowed us a much closer look at both the woman and artist from her early life at home to her untimely death and far-too-late discovery by the rest of the world- and included some rare home film, showing her in motion, breathing life into all the still pieces.

I like to think that Kahlo was a great example to female artists everywhere – of what mental freedom means – despite confinements. That confidence and determination to express oneself, regardless of any climate of ‘the norm’ and even through physical anguish and heartbreak, she still found worth in herself.

To have the ability and confidence to practice her art when faced with incredible challenges immediately raises Kahlo above the usual silence of female suffering. She becomes heroic and aspirational to women everywhere, as a symbol of resistance to burdens of all kinds. A role model, not a commodity despite her image reused on every Etsy store and market stall now- still worth of celebration as she becomes the way we ourselves express our strength and remember our own choices.

The exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum is on until Sunday, 4 November 2018.

Pictures taken from the museum website with credit.

 

 

 

Visit art print ‘Real Witches Dress In Ordinary Clothes’ by Storm x The Blind Priestess.

Gallery show of art inspired by the stories of Roald Dahl features a collaborative print by Storm x The Blind Priestess.

When: 13th September

Where: The Chocolate Museum, Brixton, 187 Ferndale Road, SW9 8BA

When: 8pm-11pm

Facebook event

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Inspired by the book The Witches, ‘Real Witches Dress In Ordinary Clothes’ is a collaboration between Storm and The Blind Priestess, commenting on a woman’s place in society where she is demonised for choosing to be childless, coping with ageing and her relationship to her self image, based on Storm’s experience with hair loss/Alopecia, through the lens of the Roald Dahl story The Witches.

An A4 unframed print is available to order on demand, for £25 with free shipping please follow the link to place your order.

Greenness – Cyclicity EP out 17th August 2018

The latest from alt-folk duo, Greenness, fronted by the divinely-voiced Cess accompanied by Graham, is something that’s been percolating for a while now. After their 2016 EP Bicephaly, the band took some time away to figure out new production techniques, learn new instruments and really delve further into musicality, performance and symbolism to grow each song. The EP was crafted in exploration of their connection to the environment, making it a very organic sounding whole, that also has distinct separations between songs and a bit of an experimental lean.

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As the band describe it the EP is “influenced by the four elements, each song intertwines natural movements with personal ones”. There is definitely a kinetic energy about this EP especially expressed in the song Moon which as Cess says “draws parallels between feminine cycles and lunar phases”.

She points out that  “‘Swimming’ correlates the ups and downs of love affairs with the movement of the tides,

‘Mother’ links mental health struggles with environmental decay,

‘Dance With The Light’ celebrates lucid dreams and the alternance of day and night.”

But this EP as much as it views a broader almost esoteric observation of the feminine, it also contains personal experience. Cess references in the EP title, her own experience with cyclothymia, which is a mood disorder of highs and lows cycling.

I’ve been very fortunate to see the duo perform some of their new songs in London recently, and I have to say it’s a delight to hear this EP lovingly pressed into a record because their bewitching live show has a wonderful companion here.

There’s a touch of a nod to the Earth Mother and a female, natural sensibility running through the EP, and Cyclicity is a powerful yet beautifully-soft collection of songs that are both strong and delicate at the same time.

Cyclicity by Greenness is available from the 17th August.

Bookmark their soundcloud page now.

Find Greenness: Bandcamp, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

My Adventures in Roller Derby – by Iona De Track

I knew a friend of a friend of a friend who played roller derby. I didn’t know much about it, but never got around to seeing a game. Not long after, I had what could be described as a bit of skate nostalgia. I remembered how much I used to love rollerblading as a kid. I’d also spent hours after swimming lessons at the local leisure centre, watching the figure skaters. One day I hoped I’d be able to gracefully skate backwards like they did on their quad roller skates.

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I decided I’d get myself a pair of quads and enjoy pootling around local parks. It seemed a lot more entertaining than running (which I’d never mastered)! It was great fun and I ended up spending many a summer evening or lunch hour trying to figure out moves. Of course, my earliest moves involved trying not to crash into people or pavement furniture.

When the summer ended and the cold, dark nights started, I was gutted. I really missed being on wheels. I started to look at roller discos, but they were crowded, and mainly filled with families. So I felt a little out of place! At this point, I was also keen to improve my skating, maybe take some lessons. Enter… roller derby.

I figured: it was indoors, I’d get lessons and meet new people who also liked skating. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to play. I was self-employed at the time and couldn’t afford to get injured and not be able to work. But I realised you could train as a referee, and get all the skating tuition, with lower risk of injury. By then, I was pretty determined to do it! I went along to watch a local game, and spent a lot of time watching the referees. They made the skating and the officiating look easy, which was an achievement in itself. I was sold. I went back the next day to sign up as a trainee ref. The rest, as they say, is history.

It seemed like such an exciting sport and a great community (spoiler: it is!). I quickly got involved in the club I’d joined. You see, roller derby is entirely run by the skaters, for the skaters. From the governing bodies through to the local clubs themselves. There’s so much opportunity to volunteer, both on and off skates. In that sense, roller derby quite easily becomes a lifestyle, rather than a hobby. So I started helping with coaching (an area I already had some training in) and other tasks for the groups that ran the club. I learned so much in that first year. It was a challenge but I laughed a lot and made some great friends. I also chose my first derby nickname – “Iona Loudwhistle” – a bit of a tradition in the sport. The idea of choosing a nickname becoming less popular now, and some people choose to go by their legal surname instead. Still, watch a local roller derby game, and you’ll hear some great puns as the skaters are announced.   

You spend a lot of time with your roller derby pals, sometimes more than your own family. Despite this, it’s very easy to know someone for years and not know all the details about their lives. For example, how old they are, or what exactly their day job involves. It’s just the nature of the sport – it’s active and it’s busy. But there’s a lot of love there, and roller derby as a whole is a very inclusive community.

There’s also a bit of a running joke about travelling in roller derby. You can end up playing or officiating all over the UK, or indeed, the world. However, while you’re travelling to all these different places, chances are you’ll mainly see the inside of a lot of sports centres. Again, it’s just how it goes! It never stops being fun though.

Sometime in my first year, I decided to change my job and give skating a go. I loved the mental challenge of reffing, and wanted to do both that and play for a team. But with work commitments, I sadly wasn’t able to. However, I figured I might not always have the opportunity to play. So I grabbed a new derby name, and my mouthguard, and got stuck in. I finally learned to skate backwards too! My skating career lasted for four years, and was a fantastic experience. My first two games on a travel team ended up being in Belgium.


Roller derby has changed a lot since I started. It’s still a relatively new sport and things are evolving all the time. Game strategies, the sport’s image, governance, rules etc. From its early revival as a solely female sport, there are now men’s teams, co-ed teams and junior teams around the world. The list of individual clubs continues to grow. Roller derby’s profile as a sport is growing too – the final day of 2018’s roller derby world cup was streamed by the BBC for the first time.

 

As for me, I couldn’t hang up my club hoodie when my skating and reffing career came to an end. I’ve been an off skates coach for my club Roller Derby Leicester for the last few years. I coach mental training and love seeing people progress as skaters, officials or coaches! There’s no better feeling than being part of helping people to achieve their goals.

If you’re curious about watching a game or getting involved, find your local club:

 

 

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This article was submitted by Iona De Track

Painting with light- How the most exciting photography happens in the dark.

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Just look at this. The neon nighttime captured perfectly as one lone person walks illuminated. This and many photos by artist Marilyn Mugot are taken at night of a Shanghai and its surrounds mysterious to most, and magical to all.

 

Steeped in fluorescence, the images are reminiscent of a strange dystopia or a bladerunner-esque landscape, preserved in complete stillness.

Most of all, the colours are breath-taking and one can spend hours poring over her gallery immersed in the detail of a leaf or neon against the night sky, where many prints are for sale.

Even model shots are moody and shot in half-light or a mist, the breadth of attention to colour shows Mugot’s innate ability to run with a theme.

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A must-follow on instagram, Marilyn’s website is worth a visit if you want one on your wall.

All images kindly reproduced by permission from the artist.

What I’d tell my 16 year-old self – Greta von Szabo

 

 

Sitting down with me aged 16 would start with a look; the kind that Al Pacino and Marlon Brando used to shoot across their mahogany desks in The Godfather.

I would hope that Me-16 would infer from the gaze that a shitstorm of epic proportions was a-coming.

 

‘Is that the wind?’

 

‘No, it’s a fuckstorm that lasts decades.’

 

‘Oh.’

 

I want to save Me-16 from my life, from the pain and disappointment, from the rejection and depression and anxiety. From all of it. Run fast, I might be tempted to scream; never look back.

 

But where could Me-16 run to away from herself?

 

I couldn’t break her heart by telling her what was to come. No. If I said anything I would have to be selective.

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I’d tell her she’d travel the world and dine with kings and princes.

I’d tell her she’d get a black belt and parachute wings.

I’d tell her that she’d write for radio and present on TV.

 

I’d tell her she’d own her own home with the garden she’d always wanted.

I’d tell her that the love of her family would never leave her.

I’d tell her that she would learn how to help people professionally.

I’d tell her she’d write novels and paint pictures.

I’d tell her that she was an empath, an artist and a teacher at heart.

 

Then I’d reach for her hand and put it in mine.

 

I’d tell her that I didn’t yet know how it would all end, but that I was sure there was a purpose to it all. Maybe not my purpose, but a greater purpose. And that I needed to grit my teeth and remember that faith is a seed that is planted in doubt.

 

Don’t have dead-people’s goals, I’d tell her, to be kind on her perfectionist, yet-to-understand-life brain. Only the dead aren’t disappointed, aren’t betrayed, aren’t alone, don’t fail.

 

Discomfort is the price of a meaningful life. Learn to fucking love it.

 

And while you’re doing that, blaze a trail across the sky, the likes of which this world has never seen before.

What would you tell your 16 year-old self? Leave your comments.

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