Professors at a University calling a Frida Kahlo painting "inappropriate"? As Basquiat/Jeff Wright says "I mean what year is this?" Below you will find a letter from my friend Denise Hill with a link to the video performance //poetry they did as a response. (I can't seem to get the actual video pictured - and Ted's not here).
Hi Jennifer –
I wanted to write to tell you about this performance:
During Women’s History Month at our school (Delta College), there are cardboard cutouts of famous women placed around campus with information posters along with them.
New this year was the image of Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait in “The Broken Column.”
There were several complaints made – by staff, not students – that the image was ‘inappropriate’ (among other labels), and should be removed.
Members from the WHM committee were called into the college Equity Office and were made to defend the cutout.
In response, I (standing in the middle) and two of my colleagues (JodiAnn Stevenson [on the left] and Chey Davis [on the right]) each separately wrote poems. JodiAnn then took them, mashed them, divided them into speaking parts, and we performed it unannounced at various times over this past week.
The poem and performance were very well received – in this final version video, there were about 70 people ‘in attendance’ – some who came because we had tipped them off as to day/time, and many because they just happened to be there.
The idea was like a “flash mob” – only it was our poetry reading.
I tell you all of this because my poem focused a great deal on the fact of Kahlo’s disability, the brace she wears in this image, and the idea of “normal” and “normalcy.” It was my perspective that those trying to censor the image were also attempting to silence this image of disability and the pain associated with what Kahlo suffered.
In my poem, I used the line/idea of “beauty is a verb” in direct reference and connection to your work with the anthology and disability poetics.
There will be no publication of the poem itself – it was purely meant to be performed as an act of protest against censorship.
In telling you this, I hope you will be okay with use of the phrase that comes from your book, and understand it was meant in solidarity and as a result of being inspired by your work.