|"My Grandparents, My Parents, and I (Family Tree)" by Frida Kahlo, 1936,|
Kahlo collected eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Mexico retablos—small paintings on metal made to thank God or saints for curing illnesses and performing miracles—and adopted the medium as her own. In this fantastical family tree, Kahlo depicted herself as a fetus in utero and as a child inside her childhood home. While Kahlo celebrated Mexican culture by invoking its traditions in her art and wearing elaborate traditional attire, this painting is as much a tribute to her European and Jewish heritage. On the right is her German-born Jewish father and his parents, symbolized by the sea, and on the left her Mexican mother and her parents, symbolized by the land and a faintly rendered map of Mexico that appears above her grandparents’ heads. Kahlo was fluent in German and closely monitored the rise of Nazism in Europe. She made this painting shortly after Hitler passed the Nuremberg laws, forbidding interracial marriage. While the painting adopts the format of genealogical charts used by the Nazis to advocate racial purity, Kahlo uses it subversively to affirm her mixed origins.
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