University of Rochester

Professor Will Discuss Frida Kahlo at International Conference

September 26, 2005

University of Rochester Professor of Spanish Claudia Schaefer will speak at an international conference this week exploring the cultural, political, and popular impact of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter who became one of the most acclaimed artists of her generation.

Fewer than 20 artists, writers, filmmakers, historians, and scholars were invited to discuss "The Many Faces of Frida Kahlo," whose tragic personal life, adventurous love life, and passionate leftist views made Kahlo a cult figure around the world following her death in 1954. Kahlo has been the subject of numerous biographies and documentaries as well as a 2002 film starring Salma Hayak.

Schaefer, who chairs the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University, will discuss "Frida and Free Trade" during the conference, which is being held Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at the Tate Modern in London. She will look at the global economy and the changing role of art using a series of slides to show how Kahlo has been appropriated and used by, among others, the U.S. government on a postage stamp, a women's knitting circle, a Che Guevara poster, a set of wall clocks, and book jackets.

Schaefer first became familiar with Kahlo's work while studying native artists and painters in Mexico. She focused on Kahlo for a chapter in her 1992 book Textured Lives: Women, Art, and Representation in Modern Mexico and has given talks on how American audiences have reacted to Kahlo's paintings. Schaefer also is the author of Bored to Distraction: Cinema of Excess in End-of-the-Century Mexico and Spain (2003) and Danger Zones: Homosexuality, National Identity, and Mexican Culture (1996) as well as numerous articles on post-Franco Spain, detective fiction, popular culture, millennial debates, and film.

Other presenters at the symposium include Amy Stechler, a filmmaker who has worked with documentarian Ken Burns and produced the 2004 documentary The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo, and Carlos Monsiváis, one of Mexico's most popular and prolific writers. The symposium coincides with a major exhibition sponsored by the Tate Gallery featuring 80 works—self-portraits and still lifes—by Kahlo.