Frida Kahlo is currently one of the most well-known Latinx artists today, but during her time she wasn't as popular as we see her now. She was often defined as famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera’s wife instead of solely being identified as an artist. Even in the announcement of her death by the New York Times in 1954 "Frida Kahlo, Artist, Diego Rivera's Wife." Our contemporary fascination with Kahlo has separated her from her husband; she has had numerous solo exhibitions at the NYBG, Brooklyn Museum as well as her museum in Mexico. At her current show at the Brooklyn Museum hangs Self Portrait as a Tehuana they also shared a quote from Kahlo, “There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.” Kahlo and Rivera’s marriages, being that they were divorced and remarried, had their ups and downs. Kahlo expresses her absolute devotion to her husband Rivera in Self Portrait as a Tehuana through the style of dress, Rivera’s placement on her forehead and the vines sprouting from her headpiece. Although we can see Kahlo as an induvial now messages in her art show the deep connection with Rivera.
The central placement of Rivera on her forehead signifies the importance and obsession Kahlo had with Rivera. In Kahlo’s diary, she writes to and about Rivera many times; one excerpt says “I don’t want anything to hurt him. Nothing to bother him or to sap his energy that he needs to live-…but I never want him to be sad and if I had my health I would give it all to him…” Kahlo wishes to solve his problems, and throughout her own life she had struggled severely with her health, but if she did have it, she would give it away. Her willingness to surrender this shows her adoration. She also writes in list form “…Diego my child, Diego my boyfriend, Diego painter, Diego my lover, Diego ‘husband’ Diego =me =, Diego universe…” She sees everything embodied in Rivera; he is her universe, and he is painted as if being worshipped by Frida. The placement is on the third eye chakra, said to see past the physical world and help with intuition; this can suggest that Kahlo uses Rivera to guide her. Kahlo paints herself but with an extension of Rivera because he is symbolically a part of her and here she paints that physically. Rivera, as Kahlo wishes, blends into her sitting perfectly on her brows as his skin becomes her skin.
Kahlo wears a white dress with a pink band flowing across as well as a floral headdress in this self-portrait. The dress and headdress are from the Tehuantepec women of Oaxaca, Mexico. Rivera encouraged Kahlo to get in touch with her Mexican roots and “she began to wear the traje [Tehuana clothing] at the request of her husband” he also encouraged her to use Tehuana imagery in her artwork. Kahlo is wearing the dress while Rivera lives on her forehead as if he is an ornamentation part of the headdress shows his connection to her use of the clothing. Diego sits on her mind while she honors him by wearing a style of dress he is keen of. Kahlo takes into account what her husband visually and culturally enjoys then presents herself in a way that aligns with it. This is one way she feels she can satisfy her husband, using her own life to make his better.
The vines sprouting from Kahlo's headpiece are both dead and alive representing the failed and successful attempts of Diego and Frida's relationship. In 1934, five years after being married, the couple separated after Diego had an affair with Frida's sister, Cristina, they would then remarry in 1940. In 1940 expressing her resentment towards Rivera’s infidelity she painted herself in man’s suit with short hair, this was an act of defiance toward Rivera.  These events have stained Kahlo and Rivera's relationship, but their reconciliation in 1940 shows how they overcame their issues and found each other again. The white flowing lines show the reconciliation of Kahlo and Rivera, sharing the same white as the Tehuana dress and free-flowing with strength. While the dead vines are knotted, wry and weak. The presence of Rivera informs the viewer the piece is about the couple, it is a self-portrait, but it shows the ups and downs of their relationship.
Each area of Kahlo's self-portrait connects with Rivera in some way. The unassuming viewer might connect the white to a wedding dress with Rivera on her head to symbolize marriage. But it goes much further than that, the complicated intricacies of their relationship have been dead and revived legally through marriage but emotionally with their unexplainable draw to each other. She also honors Rivera, while painting herself she also paints him, not only by his physical appearance on her forehead but with the Tehuana dress coming from a culture he respected and used a tool to ‘culture' Kahlo herself. It is nearly impossible to separate Rivera from Kahlo's works because he is such an influential person on Kahlo, with lifestyle, love, and art.
Bakewell, Liza. “Frida Kahlo: A Contemporary Feminist Reading.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 13 (1993): 165-189.
Blake, Kevin, and Pankl, Lis. “Made in Her Image: Frida Kahlo as Material Culture.” Material Culture 44 (2012): 1-20.
Chassen-López, Francie. “The Traje de Tehuana as National Icon: Gender, Ethnicity, and Fashion in Mexico.” The Americas 71 (2014): 281-314.
Kahlo, Frida. The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait. Introduction by Carlos Fuentes Essay and Commentaries by Sarah M. Lowe. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1995.
Lowe, Sarah. Frida Kahlo. New York: Universe Publishing, 1991.
 Blake, Kevin, and Pankl, Lis, “Made in Her Image: Frida Kahlo as Material Culture,” Material Culture 44 (2012): 2.
 Frida Kahlo, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait, Introduction by Carlos Fuentes Essay and Commentaries by Sarah M. Lowe (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1995), 291.
Kahlo, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait, 234.
 Kahlo, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait, 235.
 Sarah Lowe, Frida Kahlo (New York: Universe Publishing, 1991), 54.
 Bakewell, Liza, “Frida Kahlo: A Contemporary Feminist Reading,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 13 (1993): 172.
 Chassen-López, Francie, “The Traje de Theuana as National Icon: Gender, Ethnicity, and Fashion in Mexico,” The Americas 71 (2014): 312.
 Blake, Pankl, “Made in Her Image," 9.
 Kahlo, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait, 289, 291.
 Bakewell, Liza, “Frida Kahlo: A Contemporary Feminist Reading,” 169.