Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Celebrating Frida Kahlo on International Women's Day at Monmouth

Yesterday I gave an illustrated reading from What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo for Monmouth Women's Festival to celebrate International Women's Day. The Monmouth Shire Hall was packed to capacity even though the tickets were £15 (the event included a delicious Mexican buffet lunch. I gave a 45 minute reading and talked about Kahlo's extraordinary life and paintings, showing the paintings each of my poems is based on. There were many Frida fans in the audience and some had travelled quite far to attend, not least my editor from Seren, Amy Wack, who, despite her busy schedule, comes to many of her authors' readings. Amy took this photo of me signing books.

It felt right to celebrate Kahlo on International Women's Day, and include my poems about those radical paintings My Birth and Henry Ford Hospital with their depictions of childbirth and miscarriage which still have the power to shock. So when Mandi, one of the festival organisers, asked me later as she was driving me back to Newport train station, if I thought Kahlo was a feminist, I replied yes.  Feminism as such wasn't yet a defined movement when she was painting (she was born in 1907 and died in1954), but what makes her so groundbreaking as an artist is how she bravely painted exactly what she wanted to paint, how she wanted to paint it, regardless of anyone else's approval. Which makes her a great role model. 

 Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) Frida Kahlo 1932