Peter Klubek, Reference Librarian/Assistant Professor; Department Chair Library
Baton Rouge Community College
Faces of Frida is a partnership between Google and thirty-three international museums in seven countries. As a Google resource, Faces of Frida Kahlo is a part of the Google Arts and Culture app and features artworks, information, and resources related to artist Frida Kahlo. The website functions the same in both desktop and mobile devices and is nicely organized in layout and in the presentation.
Kahlo’s life is introduced in an online exhibition of photographs and paintings. This feature is very well produced and thorough in content. One of the editorial features examines Kahlo beyond a basic biography and presents her as a thinking person focused on creative output. Alejandro Rosas a professor of Mexican History at the Autonomous University of Mexico and author of over half a dozen books on the history of Mexico contributed an editorial piece that dispels the myth that Kahlo was strongly influenced by the Mexican Revolution. The author argues instead that Kahlo’s political influences revolved more around the Mexico that emerged from the revolution rather than the revolution itself. These introductory pieces are of good quality and provide the information from a unique perspective. Similar types of biographical reference sources such as Gale’s Biography in Context presents similar a similar outline of the artist’s life, but the content is strictly academic and in written form only. By furnishing the user with a narrative using photographs and paintings, as well as articles exploring the artist from the discipline of history, Faces of Frida Kahlo reveals Kahlo as a living person. This context could be particularly useful as an introduction to freshmen undergraduate students or those unfamiliar with Kahlo and are encountering her work for the first time. From this perspective, the information is presented in a more lively manner and connects other historical people and events.
Beyond the introductory content, the website features resources about Kahlo’s art. There is a link to a YouTube video, several online art collections, as well as many presentations exploring the technical, thematic aspects, and connections to contemporary artists. The video, “Frida and I” features the living art of Alexa Meade, who paints live people, objects and spaces to look like two-dimensional paintings. Meade discussed how Kahlo has influenced her work as an artist and as a woman. It provides a nice demonstration of how timeless connections are drawn between artist and viewer, and between human thought and existence. However, the dominance of the video can be distracting. As the largest feature on screen, users are automatically directed to this video whether or not they might find it useful.
The online exhibitions below the video offer an examination of individual paintings and inspirations of Frida Kahlo. In one example, users can view the back of a painting and read the narrative written directly on the bare canvas by Kahlo herself. This firsthand account offers access to a primary source that few in the past have had the opportunity to review. Other links to quality scans of additional primary sources including sketchbooks, diaries, and letters are also available. This is particularly useful for researchers and scholars looking for new perspectives on Kahlo’s life.
The site also features high caliber images of Kahlo’s paintings. These are listed on the site according to categories that reflect themes in her work such as “Detroit,” “Miscarriages,” and “Politics.” Like the rest of Google’s museum projects, one can zoom in to focus on individual elements, brush strokes, and forms within each painting. Studio artists, scholars, and visual resources professionals will find this particularly useful in gaining an understanding of how Kahlo worked with her imagery.
Faces of Frida Kahlo is an excellent, free resource that does not require special software to be viewed. The resources are easy to navigate, coherent in their organization, and intuitive in nature. This would be a very good resource for anyone interested in exploring the life, work, and influences of Frida Kahlo.