Judy Chicago and Frances Borzello, Frida Kahlo: Face to Face, Prestel Publishing, 2010
The name “Frida Kahlo” tends to provoke a passionate response among art fans and feminists alike. At first look, feminist artist Judy Chicago and art historian Frances Borzello’s recent Frida Kahlo: Face to Face may appear to be yet another entry in the glut of Frida-related books that have appeared since the mid-190s and tend to cover similar ground; however, this is not just another Frida book intended to capitalize on salacious details about her life or provide a hipster’s coffee table with full-color reproductions of her amazing paintings. It is by no means a perfect addition to the canon of books about Kahlo and her art, but an important and worthwhile one nonetheless.
Judy Chicago is a strong candidate to undertake such a project, as she knows firsthand about the unique pressures of being an openly feminist creator in the art world. Best known for her 1979 installation piece The Dinner Party as well as many other pieces in a variety of media, Chicago’s perspective on women’s art—and the history of feminist art—brings to the book both her intelligent personal reflections on Kahlo’s art and its impact on her own work and that of other 20thcentury-era women artists. She provides particular elucidation of how Kahlo’s work fits in with some of the major themes of women’s art throughout the 20th century, including gender, the body, relationships, the self, pain, pride, and culture. Frances Borzello’s art history background adds much-needed artistic and cultural context to the works of Kahlo’s that are discussed in the book; many readers, regardless of their experience with art history, will find that Borzello’s analyses reveal new insights about Kahlo’s work from a more technical and historical artistic perspective.