MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A coil of dark braids. Colorful Mexican dress. And a signature unibrow.
Sixty-three years after her death, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo has achieved a level of fame she never reached in her lifetime, her image emblazoned on mugs, T-shirts, keychains and even underwear. But scholars and the painter’s descendants lament she has been reduced to a set of distinctive physical features that often overshadows her actual work.
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The debate heated up this spring when toymaker Mattel released a Barbie in Kahlo’s image, over protests from her family.
The Barbie and other merchandise do not capture Kahlo’s complex legacy as a feminist icon, a disabled woman who channeled her pain into art, an ardent communist and an inspiration to the LGBT community, scholars say.
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“Frida Kahlo is not a product or a brand…. Frida Kahlo is not a doll,” said photographer Cristina Kahlo, the artist’s great niece. “For us, it is important to maintain the image of Frida Kahlo as the painter that she was.”
This month, a new project aims to return the focus to her art. Alphabet’s Google, working in collaboration with the Kahlo family, has dedicated a portion of its Arts and Culture app to the artist’s life and work.
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The search giant partnered with 33 museums to digitize Kahlo’s most famous paintings and bring new work into the public eye. The app also features rare letters, diary entries and sketches, in addition to a virtual tour of her famous blue home.
The Kahlo family played an active role. U.S. artist Alexa Meade and Mexican musician Ely Guerra collaborated on a piece of “living art” honoring Kahlo, working under her great niece’s guidance.
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“These projects that are related to Frida from a cultural point of view, spreading her painting, works and story… are projects I like and feel comfortable participating in,” Cristina...
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