A Brief Comparison: Kahlo & Ferguson, Ability, Gender, Race and the Structure of Conveying Difference

The Broken Column, Frida Kahlo; 1944.

Frida Kahlo was an amazing, daring artist, who I, like many others admire. I find myself over the years, returning to her paitinings, and finind something new, meaningful, and insightful in her work.

Yesterday, I posted about artist Laura Ferguson, a newYork-based artist, who uses her own medical expeeriences, in a visual autobiography, to examine the ways in which her body as object is subject to manipulation and the gaze. Ferguson’s work is detailed, highly technically skilled, and moving. This is is large part, because it is so accurate. Ferguson took pains to render a realistic portrayal of the body and its inner workings. In this way she argues, she takes something flawed, and shows its beauty.

Yesterday, I thought a lot about intersections, particularly of race, (dis)ability, gender, and class. Today, in thinking more about Ferguson’s work, and how the work of Frida Kahlo, a womyn of color, is really the progenitor/ancestor of Ferguson’s concept and work.   

Kahlo managed (dis)ability her entire life. According to biographies of her life, she was diagnosed with polio at the age of six. As a result she had some paralysis in her right leg. As a young womyn, she was in a devastating bus accident that had life long consequences.  Like Laura Ferguson, Kahlo sustained injury to her spinal cord. Ferguson’s spine has a curvature of her spine, while Kahlo’s spine was  broken (along with her leg, foot, and three ribs) in three places. for the rest of her life, Kahlo would suffer from chronic pain and illness for the rest of her life. 

I’m struck at how you can see a difference in the way that Kahlo represents her (dis)ability and the way that Ferguson  represents her difference.

The Broken Column, Frida Kahlo; 1944


What I am struck by is the fact that Kahlo looks directly at the viewer, through and amidst her preceived brokenness. She shows her pain in a bold and direct way. We do not know what Ferguson’s expression is and we cannot guess at the pain, because her face is hidden. It’s odd but Kahlo seems powerful to me in The Broken Column  – even through her pain.


One Response to “A Brief Comparison: Kahlo & Ferguson, Ability, Gender, Race and the Structure of Conveying Difference”

  1. […] “Straightened Out: The Art Work of Laura Ferguson, Body Politics, and Gender, ” “A Brief Comparison: Kahlo & Ferguson, Ability, Gender, Race and the Structure of Conveying Diff…” and Yinka Shonibare ”Yinka Shonibare MBE Series Part III: Crippled Politics, Whole […]

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