Okay, so I know what you're thinking: 'another article about Frida Kahlo, how…original'. Well, keep your sarky thoughts to yourself. This isn't an article about Frida, it's more about Frida-mania; how we got here and what we have to learn. You see, Kahlo has become something of an icon, with her face plastered practically everywhere — from phone cases to wall paper, to emojis — but actual engagement with her work is somewhat more limited.

Sure, copies of the artist's work are all over the internet, but that's not what people want to buy into necessarily. What people are really trying to tap into with their Frida Kahlo iPhone case is a narrative of rebellion and resistance, as embodied by a romanticised notion of her life (most notably her tempestuous relationship with Diego Rivera).

A bisexual woman of mixed-race heritage, who experienced mobility problems after a near-fatal car crash, she was clearly disadvantaged within the highly patriarchal society of early twentieth century Mexico. Yet, her work was to gain her significant fame and recognition at the latter end of her life, and even more so posthumously. As such, she stands as a symbol that yes, we can overcome the oppressive forces which govern society. This definitely ties into her appeal, strengthened by the fact that she is relevant to so many specific groups. The particularly multifaceted nature of her identity means that she emerges as a representative for the LGBT+, Latina, Amerindian and the differently-abled communities simultaneously.

However, hasn't the subversive nature of Kahlo's legacy become somewhat lost? Surely seeing her face caricatured, reduced to the simple lines and bright colours of an eye-catching graphic or cutesy illustration, and endlessly reproduced, takes away its impact? Just like Pride, which started out as a protest and is now just a party, the image of Frida Kahlo has been co-opted by the mainstream, made overly familiar and stripped of its radical meaning. Like Che Guevara or Bob Marley, her face is instantly recognisable to all, while the details of her life are a bit of a mystery to many.

However, a quiet storm is brewing amongst online Latinx communities, where individuals have been calling out white feminists for their appropriation of the Mexican painter. Not only are these communities taking a stand against neo-imperialism, they are introducing Kahlo fans to a more fruitful way of viewing her work. Kahlo's art is most impactful when placed in its correct historical and cultural context, rather than being copied and pasted into Western popular culture. Her work is evidently influenced by indigenous Mexican culture, making use of bright colours and of symbolism told in the visual vocabulary of Mexican mythology. The use of these elements in work broadly termed as 'Surrealist' helps to open this European artistic movement, filtering it through a different subjectivity and a new series of cultural codes.

Indeed, taking the time to engages with Kahlo's paintings is an exercise which not only enriches a reading of her work but also demonstrates the limits of Western Art History. You see, the process of canonisation (i.e. deciding what is preserved, studied, held up as a 'masterpiece') is incredibly reductive. The organisation of artists under convenient labels like 'Impressionist' or 'Minimalist' means that work which doesn't fit so easily is pushed to the sidelines. Furthermore, canonisation takes place in Western seats of knowledge, meaning that much of the art which we study, or see reproduced, is by Western artists. By properly delving into Kahlo's life and works, one gains access to a wealth of references outside the Western canon, whether it be Mexican Muralism or Precolombine Art.

Not to say that Kahlo's work in itself is enough to properly acquaint you with the wealth of art, culture and literary tradition which lies outside of the Occident — far from it. Her work should only serve as a reminder that what you learn in schools and in further education in the West is only the tipping point. Paradoxically, it is Kahlo's infiltration of mass culture which has allowed her legacy to overcome the confines of the canon and speak directly to the people. As long as we open ourselves up to learning more about Latin American culture, Frida-mania might not be such a bad thing after all.