Excerpted from Frida Kahlo: Portraits of an Icon
Text Copyright © 2002, Margaret Hooks

Even as a child, clothes were a kind of personal language for Frida and essential to the construction of her many personas. Throughout her life she used an extraordinary variety of outfits as if going through a never-ending trunk of a portrait photographer’s props and costumes, starting with the denim overalls she wore as a child (attire then almost unheard of for a middle-class girl), as well as boots, floppy ties and caps, men’s suits, period dresses in velvets and silks, blue jeans and regional costumes from every area of Mexico.

Her first persona seems to have been created at the age of fourteen when she enrolled in the “prepa”, the National Preparatory School, where she was one of only thirty-five girls among two thousand students. Frida soon became a member of a group of brilliant but irreverent students known as the Cachuchas after the large, peaked caps they all wore. They were a youthful band of merry pranksters who enjoyed being outrageous, and prided themselves in their punning and caustic witticisms, a sense of humour that Frida shared and employed from then on in her correspondence and conversation.

LUIS GONZALEZ PALMA: Tearing, Cutting, Hammering.

'Eyes Wide Open'

‘Eyes Wide Open’


For Guatemalan artist Luis Gonzalez Palma, life is a circus, a game of chance, a series of simultaneously occurring fleeting images and ultimately, a tragedy. He employs these themes in his work to represent the universal concepts of death, solitude, suffering, strength and beauty most often through the countenance of his country’s most dispossessed, the Mayan Indian.

His huge portraits are of a sombre, dignified people transmogrified into haunting, magical, mythological beings by his rich symbolism. Roses, diadems, crowns, thorns and laurel wreath their heads, stars fall from their hair, they don tutus, harlequin suits, steel helmets and lion’s heads. Clutching moons, sprouting wings and bound by ropes and barbed wire they become martyrs, angels, warriors, kings, saints, and ballerinas.

He has a total disregard for the integrity of the photograph manipulating it mercilessly — tearing and scratching, cutting it into fragments, covering it with text, tape and film, adorning it with ribbons, banging nails into it and obscuring it with varnishes.

– From ‘Tearing, Cutting, Hammering’, by Margaret Hooks

FRIDA KAHLO: The Camera and the Image

Photo: Lola Alvarez Bravo

Photo: Lola Alvarez Bravo


Most of Frida’s self-portraits were painted using the mirror, and her model became her reflected image, facilitating a substitution of symbolic space for her actual environment.

Frida filled this space, in her self-portraits as well as in several of her other works, with the accoutrements of portrait photography, such as props, costumes and backcloths. Frequently her subject appears to float in front of a space rather than within it, with the background reminiscent of a photographer’s backdrop …

– From Frida Kahlo, by Margaret Hooks


Borago officinalis

Borago officinalis


The traditional Herbarium with its magical and curative associations is deeply rooted in our collective memory and is as ancient as our desire to name and give order to the natural world we inhabit.

In this series of photographs by Manel Armengol a metamorphosis takes place whereby the image of an unpretentious herb is transmuted. The commonplace becomes profound and mysterious, transformed into a banquet for the eyes.

Vibrating with energy, leaves and tendrils swirl and curl in a gothic flamboyance, plump pistils perforate the air with sensuality; flower heads hang delicately on radiant stalks as the artist’s vision enables us to see them in their sublime splendor.”

– From Herbarium, by Margaret Hooks



'Mazahua Women'

‘Mazahua Women’


The aim of Mariana Yampolsky’s photography is to make palpable Mexico’s diversity through images of its architecture, landscape and most significantly, its pastiche of cultures.

She photographed a Mexico that exists primarily as collective memory — the memory of its indigenous past or “first nation”. Yampolsky worked untiringly to preserve the memory of this other world, to breathe life into the past as she photographed its remnants …

– From Mariana Yampolsky: Memoria, by Margaret Hooks

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