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Gomez

Rebeca Gomez
Artwork Analysis
Self-portrait on the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States (1932)
Famous for her numerous self-portraits, in this particular piece Frida Kahlo depicts a very
personal portrayal of her own divided but definite feelings between two neighboring nations. This
abstract painting may be classified as abstract expressionism due to the stylistic elements utilized by
Kahlo to convey intensely intimate emotions. The tone set by this mode of expressionism is of contempt
and scorn. This mood is set forth by the centered figure, Frida Kahlo herself. This particular focal point
irrefutably stands out as the foreground due to the tremendous light value found in this triangularly
geometric figure. Painted in the most central field of view standing upright and with crossed arms, Kahlo
paints herself in a light pink hue and traditionally Mexican dress. In addition to its hue, this dress
captivates the attention of the viewer through its sheer proportion in relation to the rest of the figures and
objects in the painting. In general, her status as the center-figure is emphasized by the contrast of hues
found throughout the rest of the painting which are visually heavy in weight and darker in value. This
contrast reflects the underlying theme of duality that Kahlo strives to reveal that exist on both sides of the
border.
The composition of this work occurs in a symmetrical form where balance is achieved despite the
apparent thematic dissonance portrayed. Full of activity, this busy portrait displays a continuous narrative
through the strategic placement of figures and segmentation of space. This breakdown of space:
foreground, middle, and background, works in conjunction to a continuous narrative that may be
interpreted as a timeline. In the ground, a binary is presented through two thematically different figures,
the sun and the moon. The opposing characteristics of these objects are further reinforced through the
balanced use of light and dark values: placing a bright blood-orange saturated moon atop a white, light
valued cloud. The moon painted with low saturation through a dull yellow that plays on gray hues,
interlocks as an opposite figure that when visually cropped with the sun, achieves a thoughtfully placed

Gomez

balance. Below these figures and also in the left background, Kahlo paints what appear to be preColumbian ruins. She simultaneously makes a distinction with what may have been their original
architecture on the right and their ruined state on the left. Visually moving ahead through this timeline, in
the middle most of the visual activity lies on the right hand side by the inorganic shapes of the pipes and
industrial buildings. A particular rhythm is depicted by the repetition of pipes and similar geometrical
architecture which emphasizes the industrial aspect of what is seen as the American side. Implied lines are
illustrated through the edges and tops of buildings. For example, the darkest value building in this area of
the painting has edges that connect to each other through a visually implied line. The abundance of
geometry reinforces and enhances the monotony in which this area is painted through darker valued
colors that although may not be similar in hue are so similar in shade that they feel cohesive. This middle
ground balances with the background, both thematically and artistically. Although the pyramid structure
in the background is geometric with rigid edges, the viewer knows these to be man-made shapes that
could be considered organic when contrasted with the industrial, more modern American side. Continuing
through the timeline and continuous narrative, at the front portion of the painting along with the Frida
figure, are elements that continue to add to the theme of dualism while also achieving formal artistic
balance. On the left hand side of the foreground, flowers which stand for fertility and emphasize themes
of feminine value, are painted with light tones that contrast the industrial right side of Frida. These shapes
are clearly industrial but not clear as to what they may be are attached to the roots of the flowers. This
attachment may be interpreted as a political commentary about the natural resources of Mexico being
tapped into by its neighbor through the process of industrialization and globalization.