Frida Kahlo and the Library

So I was researching the Mexican Revolution the other day–because hey, revolution–and you know, 1910-1920 really was a high point for socialism.

You know, this aesthetic would look great in a movie
Pancho Villa, Mexican Revolution

We had the Mexican Revolution, the Russian Revolution, that election when instead of Dems vs. Repubs we had the International Socialist (Wilson) vs. the Nationalistic Socialist (Teddy Roosevelt) vs. whatever Taft was, normal conservatism or something. Wilson won and gave us the income tax (so we could tax the rich to give to the poor, and also a massive standing army,) the League of Nations, and the Federal Reserve.

Anyway, so I was researching the Mexican Revolution, and happened across Diego Rivera–you know him, he’s famous for being married to Frida Kahlo, who’s famous for being one of the twentieth century’s most over rated artists.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
Frida Kahlo, self portrait
Frida Kahlo, self portrait

No, wait, Frida Kahlo is famous for having been married to Rivera, who’s famous for being an actually pretty good artist who painted a bunch of pictures of Marx and Lenin and the like inside the Mexican capital building. Which I suppose explains why Trotsky died in Mexico.

Detail of Man at the Crossroads, fresco at Palacio de Bellas Artes
Detail of Man at the Crossroads, fresco at Palacio de Bellas Artes
Detail of Man at the Crossroads, fresco at Palacio de Bellas Artes
Detail of Man at the Crossroads, fresco at Palacio de Bellas Artes
Detail of The History of Mexico showing betrayed revolution in the Mexican capital building
Detail of The History of Mexico showing betrayed revolution, located in the Mexican capital building (note Marx)

Anyway, yes, so Diego and Frida were hipsters. But I got to thinking–how is it that I know the name of Diego Rivera, (and even Frida Kahlo!) the guy who painted at least part of the Mexican capitol building, but I don’t even know the name of the guy who painted the US Capitol building?

I got 11 months of white history a year in school, and I don’t even know Diego Rivera’s opposite number?

Yes, there were probably multiple guys involved in painting the US Capitol building (and the Mexican Capitol.) But can you name any of them?

Neither can I, and I actually posted one of his paintings about a month and a half ago on this blog:

Apotheosis of George Washington, painted by Greek-Italian (naturalized US citizen) artist Constantino Brumidi in 1865
Apotheosis of George Washington, painted by Greek-Italian (naturalized US citizen) Constantino Brumidi in 1865

Brumidi also painted this lovely lady on the White House:

Liberty, by Constantino Brumidi, 1869
Liberty, by Constantino Brumidi, 1869

But Brumidi is clearly a nobody whose work is not worth remembering, whereas Frida Kahlo is so important, she gets a two-page spread in National Geographic’s Little Kids First Big Book of Who. (The book is actually more serious than it sounds.)

From Amazon’s description of the book:

“Introduce young readers to some of the world’s most interesting and important people in this bold and lively first biography book. More than 100 colorful photos are paired with age-appropriate text featuring profiles of each person, along with fascinating facts about their accomplishments and contributions. This book inspires kids about a world of possibilities and taps into their natural curiosity about fascinating role models from education advocate Malala Yousafzai to astronaut Neil Armstrong.”

The book awards Albert Einstein one entire paragraph, but Isabella Bird (who?) Jackie Robinson, and Amelia Earhart all get two-page spreads.

You know, can we please stop using Amelia Earhart as some sort of symbol of female accomplishment and empowerment, considering that Amelia is most famous for having failed spectacularly to fly across the Pacific and probably died horrible in a plane crash? If we have to scrounge around for female role models, can’t we find one who didn’t die hideously while failing at the thing she was supposedly paving the way for women to do? I mean, a woman recently won the Fields Medal, isn’t that some sort of accomplishment? Or do we only talk about math when whining?

Of course, Brumidi doesn’t even make it into the book.

I happened to be at the library because I was looking for a picture book about Teddy Roosevelt, because the kids wanted to know why teddy bears are called teddy bears. Roosevelt is generally acknowledged to be one of our greatest presidents–he once got shot in the shoulder by a would-be assassin, got up, and gave his campaign speech anyway. He won a Nobel Prize (I know, I know,) and folks even bothered to carve a mountain into the shape of his face to make sure that we all remember just how awesome he was.

Of course, there were no picture books about Teddy Roosevelt. I wasn’t surprised. I did find picture books about black female civil rights leaders (besides Rosa Parks;) a picture book about how poor Frida Kahlo was lonely and doubted herself when she moved too the US, but then she did ART and so it was all okay; a picture book about how slaves built the White House; a picture book about Loving v. Virginia; etc.

I did find a book by Newt Gingrich’s wife about how much elephants love America, and one by a Biden relation about a little girl who prays for god to bless our troops. It was shelved next to the children’s picture books about gay parents.

I did manage to find some decent-looking history books, but sadly, nothing on Teddy Roosevelt. I mean, who was he? Some guy who didn’t even make it into the Big Book of Who?

 

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7 thoughts on “Frida Kahlo and the Library

  1. Frida Kahlo was overrated indeed. I learned about Kahlo and Rivera in Spanish class which is probably more appropriate. Only one paragraph about Einstein, dang!

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