Fulang-Chang and I (1937)
Artwork description & Analysis: This painting debuted at Kahlo's exhibition in Julien Levy's New York gallery in 1938, and was one of the works that most fascinated Andre Breton, the founder of Surrealism. The canvas in the New York show is a self-portrait of the artist and her spider monkey, Fulang-Chang, a symbol employed as a surrogate for the children that she and Rivera could not have. The arrangement of figures in the portrait signals the artist's interest in Renaissance paintings of the Madonna and child. After the New York exhibition, a second frame containing a mirror was added. The later inclusion of the mirror is a gesture inviting the viewer into the work: it was through looking at herself intensely in a mirror in her months spent at home after her bus accident that Kahlo first began painting portraits and delving deeper into her psyche. The inclusion of the mirror, considered from this perspective, is a remarkably intimate vision into both the artist's aesthetic process and into her personal introspection.
In many of Kahlo's self-portraits, she is accompanied by monkeys, dogs, and parrots, all of which she kept as pets. Since the Middle Ages, small spider monkeys, like those kept by Kahlo, have been said to symbolise the devil, heresy and paganism, finally coming to represent the fall of man, vice, and the embodiment of lust. These monkeys were depicted in the past as a cautionary symbol against the dangers of excessive love and the base instincts of man. Kahlo again depicts herself with her monkey in both 1939 and 1940. In a later version in 1945, Kahlo paints her monkey and also her dog, Xolotl. This little dog that often accompanies the artist, is named after a mythological Aztec god, known to represent lightning and death, and also to be the twin of Quetzalcoatl, both of who had visited the underworld. All of these pictures, including Fulang-Chang and I include 'umbilical' ribbons that wrap between Kahlo's and the animal's necks. Kahlo is the Madonna and her pets become the holy (yet darkly symbolic) infant for which she longs.
In two parts, oil on composition board (1937) with painted mirror frame (added after 1939) - Museum of Modern Art, New York
Writing about web page http://academic.reed.edu/spanish/courses/Spanish-210/Frida/Frida-TheTwoFridas.html
ORIGIN OF THE TWO FRIDAS
I must have been six years old when I had an intense experience of an imaginary friendship with a little girl .. roughly my own age. On the window of my old room, facing Allende Street, I used to breathe on one of the top panes. And with my finger I would draw
Through that “door” I would come out, in my imagination, and hurriedly with immense happiness, I would cross all the field I could see until I reached… (245)
a dairy store called PINZON… Through the “O” in PINZON I entered and descended impetuously to the entrails of the earth, where “my imaginary friend” always waited for me. I don’t remember her appearance or her color [sic]. But I do remember her joyfulness – she laughed a lot. Soundlessly. She was agile and danced as if she were weightless. I followed her in every movement and while she danced, I told her my secret problems, Which ones? I can’t remember. But…
from my voice she knew all about my affairs. When I came back to the window, I would enter through the same door I had drawn on the glass. When? How long had I been with “her”? I don’t know. It could have been a second or thousands of years… I was happy. I would erase the “door” with my hand and it would “disappear”. I ran with my secret and my joy to the farthest corner of the patio of my house, and always to the same place, under a cedron tree, I would shout and laugh Amazed to be… (246)
Alone with my great happiness with the very vivid memory of the little girl. It has been 34 years since I lived that magical friendship and every time I remember it it comes alive and grows more and more inside my world.
PINZON, 1950. Frida Kahlo. (247)