Preserving Cultural Roots: Frida Kahlo and Carmen Lomas Garza's Art

Both Frida Kahlo and Carmen Lomas Garza demonstrate a strong bond with their heritage and family customs in their art, which holds great significance in Hispanic households. By utilizing vivid colors and imagery, both artists skillfully convey their ideas. In Kahlo's piece "Self Portrait on the Border Line Between Mexico and the United States", she adeptly captures her Mexican background while residing in a non-Mexican nation, highlighting her dedication to upholding her cultural roots.

Garza's "Camas Para Sueños" (Beds for Dreams) emphasizes the close bond she shared with her sister and their mother's encouragement of their dreams, while also underscoring the significance of heritage and culture.

Preserving one's cultural identity is crucial and should be passed down to future generations. Frida Kahlo's artwork illustrates how exploring diverse cultures can enhance one's appreciation for their own heritage. The decline of cultural traditions can have a profound impact on both nations and families.

A brief overview of Frida Kahlo's childhood and adulthood sheds light on her intricate inner world.

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The artwork captures the essence of magical realism, reflecting the unique perspective of the talented Mexican artist who painted from her heart, depicting what she feels inside. A notable piece, Self Portrait on the Border Line Between Mexico and the United States (1932), provides insight into Kahlo's emotions, thoughts, and spirit. (Dec 4, 2002) The Christian Century from Fine Arts and Music Collection via Gale)

The painting symbolizes the Mexican-American connection, or lack thereof, with a subtle yet powerful message. Created by Kahlo while waiting for her husband Rivera to finish his mural in Detroit, the artwork reflects her feelings of loneliness and isolation after a traumatic miscarriage and hospitalization.

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She felt stuck in limbo, far from her beloved Mexico, as expressed through the roots at the bottom of each side of the painting.

The roots on the United States side are industrial cables, black in color and varying in shape. In contrast, the roots on the Mexican side are natural plant roots that reach into the ground. The significance of these roots lies in the connection between them, as one industrial cord reaches down and touches the roots of a plant under Kahlo.

The brown pods on the plant symbolize how the industrial, unnatural reality of the United States is suffocating and destroying all that is natural, including Mexico. This contrast is highlighted by Mexico's organic roots versus the dark, manmade roots of the United States. In the painting, Kahlo is depicted wearing a dress reminiscent of an American style, with ruffles along the bottom of the pink skirt.

In some ways it seems reflective of the Civil War era, without the presence of a powerful hoop skirt underneath, or perhaps a dress of the old West days in the United States. Whatever the case it is not a dress that is reflective of Kahlo but of the United States. In addition, in the hand that is facing towards Mexico Kahlo holds a Mexican flag. In the hand that is facing towards the United States she holds a cigarette. Her hands are crossed. This all suggests influences she likes, dislikes, and is perhaps confused by.

In this picture, she embodies both worlds. The Mexican side is patriotic and filled with Mexican spirit, while the hand holding a cigarette represents the industrial and harmful nature of the United States, possibly indicating its negative impact on Mexico. On the US side, there are no apparent religious icons, but one could argue that industrialization, manufacturing, and smokestacks serve as the religion of the United States.

On the Mexican side, there are numerous references to the history and religion of Mexico, including a goddess statue with two infants, possible representation of ancient Aztec religions, and ancient architectural elements. The natural presentation of Mexico is depicted in a religious context, with elements such as a skull possibly symbolizing the Day of the Dead. In contrast, the religion of the United States appears to be centered around mass production, destruction of the earth, and pursuit of wealth.

Despite being positioned at the center of the painting, Kahlo's presence does not indicate shared beliefs, but rather reflects an internal conflict as she observes the impact of the United States on her nation. While she is connected to the United States through her relationship with Diego, Kahlo conveys through her art that she is dissatisfied with the country and finds true beauty and peace in Mexico, her homeland.

Schjeldahl, P. (Nov 5, 2007) Kahlo is considered a national treasure of Mexico, representing the country as not just a culture, but as a complete civilization with deep historical roots and modern styles. In Carmen Lomas Garza's painting "Camas Para Suenos" (Beds for Dreams), two children sit on the roof of their home, looking at the full moon. Inside the bedroom below, their mother prepares the bed for the children to sleep in, with a crucifix hanging on the wall behind her. (p. 92)

This image depicts a time when children could peacefully sit and gaze at the stars while their mothers, wearing aprons, made the beds they would sleep in. The perspective is that of a child, calling for Mexicans to remember their culture. Despite facing racism and discrimination, Mexican-American Garza chooses to focus on family as a source of resolution. Through her writing, Garza generously shares her memories of cherished childhood in a rural Hispanic community. Roback, D. (July 13, 1990).

In her paintings, Garza connects her daily activities and cherished memories, such as conversations with her sister on the roof about stars, constellations, and future aspirations. From a young age, she aspired to be an artist, inspired by her mother who nurtured their dreams for the future. This particular painting captures the essence of those youthful discussions and their shared dream of becoming artists, portraying the sisters enjoying everyday moments under the stars. Despite being Mexican immigrants in the United States, their dreams remained unchanged.

Updated: Feb 21, 2024
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Preserving Cultural Roots: Frida Kahlo and Carmen Lomas Garza's Art. (2018, Nov 04). Retrieved from

Preserving Cultural Roots: Frida Kahlo and Carmen Lomas Garza's Art essay
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