Finance, Threads, and Frida: Lucy’s Kaleidoscope of Inspiration
This month we spoke to Lucy, Financial Director at Free The Birds and how she has drawn inspiration from the iconic artist Frida Kahlo throughout her adult life. For the uninitiated, Kahlo was a Mexican artist born in 1907, whose life was plagued by many hardships, most significantly her chronic health issues, which she often featured directly in much of her work. She went on to be one of the most influential female artists of the 20th century. Lucy first encountered Kahlo’s surrealist and brilliantly coloured style whilst at university as a textile design student.
“When I first encountered Frida Kahlo’s artwork during my university days, it was like a burst of colours and emotions – she was immediately one of my favourites. Her surrealist and vibrant style as well as attitude to life ignited a creative spark that has stayed with me ever since.”
Lucy went on to study the female form and other Mexican artists during her studies but has never left behind Kahlo’s enduring influence on her work.
“She fearlessly tackled issues such as pain, sorrow and loss in her work which were topics more readily associated with male artists like Dürer, Goya and Munch. To see these investigated by a female artist was unheard of and produced these revolutionary new perspectives.”
Kahlo’s art style is typically defined as surrealism or magic realism with its bright colours and strong symbolism which really lends itself to Lucy’s medium of choice: embroidery. In her spare time Lucy is an avid embroidery enthusiast, having first picked up the needle in her days as a textile design student. Spending her free time stitching complex chain stitch embroidery on her ancient 1930s Singer sewing machine, it’s hard for any outsider to ignore Frida Kahlo’s influence on her work. The political messages and vibrant colours Lucy uses draws a direct link to Kahlo’s art and politics.
Beyond Kahlo’s artistic prowess, Lucy finds a deep connection with the artist’s political beliefs, which resonates with her own personal values. Frida Kahlo is known for her powerful political insights about the plight of the poor, emerging technology, national identity and the Mexican/ US relationship. Whilst holding this intensive political beliefs Kahlo uses her art as a means to subvert the language of politics, creating taboo-breaking art that deals with gender roles, socialism, chronic pain and resilience.
And when facing challenges, both personally and professionally, Lucy draws strength from Frida Kahlo’s resilience. “Kahlo’s ability to endure immense pain and still produce art that touched the world is awe-inspiring,” Lucy states. “Her strength reminds me that no obstacle is insurmountable, and it’s the kind of attitude to life I want to pass on to my daughter.”
“Having a role in a typically male dominated career like finance has definitely thrown up obstacles and difficulties which my male counter-parts can’t relate to. When you picture your usual accountant it’s certainly not a pink-haired woman with tattoos such as myself!” she laughs.
But Lucy takes her role as a female account particularly seriously, she sees it as a way of providing a role model to young women, particularly her daughter.
“Early in my career I never thought I would go as far as I have. Everyone around me was a man and I always told myself that [being a financial director] is something I’ll never be able to do. I think role models are so important for young people, hearing about Frida Kahlo’s story definitely solidified my path in some way. You can’t listen to a life story like hers without wanting to strive for change.”
For Lucy, Kahlo’s art has had a lasting impact on gender norms and standards of beauty, which is for many young women what has become so captivating about her. Lucy explains, “Even in her self-portraiture she’s changed the status quo for all women. Her stoic look and monobrow was a statement on male and female beauty standards. Her look has simply become shorthand for strong female self-expression. Even in the early 20th century she was making break throughs with gender ideals in a way that feels progressive even today”
Lucy believes Frida Kahlo’s work has symbolised a shift in the way female artists are perceived as well.
“I think prior to Kahlo’s work, women who spoke about their emotions were literally labelled hysterical or insane, whilst men were freely able to explore this topic in their art and work. Kahlo has broken this taboo somewhat and allowed women to remain artistically active even under the weight of issues like depression. I love how wildly she’s run rough-shod over gender-norms.”
It’s clear that, for Lucy, Frida Kahlo’s vibrant spirit has threaded her way through both her professional and personal life. From finance to embroidery, she has embraced the essence of Kahlo’s self-expression drawing inspiration from the artist’s resilience and creativity. We can’t wait to see more of Frida Kahlo’s influence in Lucy’s art in the future.
Visit Lucy’s website at www.sewbeitldn.com to learn more about her art.