As a drag artist, i’ve always felt a little different and odd because while i adore the glitz and glam of drag –the big hair, statement makeup, and over-the-top outfits, i’d rather pour myself and energy into creating statement pieces that evoke deep feelings in the audience rather than create shock value.
That’s because i drag like i live my life — deeply, emotionally, connective-ly, fully.
But sometimes when i’m playing the comparison game that oh-so-many of us creatives and performers do — Oh, this drag queen has hundreds of thousands of followers compared to my measly thousand or This queen has already performed that song – and WAAAAY better.— i catch myself wondering maybe if i cared a little less deeply about creating shit that matters maybe i’d be further along (read: popular) than i am.
In today’s social media age where value is attributed to those with the highest following, engagement rate and likes, Frida’s life, art, and words remind me that deep isn’t bad. That feeling things, experiencing things, and living a life full of emotions is really the only way to live — and to make and create art.
It is art and creativity of the whole entire self.
Last year, my wife and i had the honor and once-in-a-lifetime experience to see Frida’s art in the flesh at the Dallas Modern Museum of Art. i cried all the way through it. i’m crying now as i’m typing and remembering the experience.
i used to think there was something wrong with me because of moments like this — tearing up at the hands of a powerful memory or at the wind blowing against my face just right and the overwhelming presence and profoundness of simply being alive.
“You cry at EVERYTHING” they would say — as if living and relating this intimately and deeply was a weakness.
But Frida taught me that THAT is the art.
i used to believe that i was crazy and stupid because i loved the self-help and personal development sections in the bookstore, taking hours to just sit and ask myself questions trying to understand my own thoughts, desires, and personality.
But Frida’s constant self-reflection through words and art showed me that reflection is what makes or breaks an artist. Because only in self-reflection can we find truth and that truth become our best work.
Growing up and even into adulthood, I used to be ashamed of my Mexicana culture — our flamboyant colors, festivals celebrating the dead, our music, our history as laborers and the salt of the earth, and, yes, even churros– having been told time and time again by teachers, the media, and those in power that we were aliens, illegal, undocumented. Our traditional ways primitive, folk, unadvanced, dangerous.
Finding Frida reintroduced me to my culture in the only mother tongue i know — art. She reintroduced me to me — in all my brown, bold, and badass female glory.
And she surrounds me in my creative space and home office. She faces me as i type on my computer in the form of a sticky note that reads: “Essential Intent: Help ALL of us see the world/news/society/our otherness/ each other in new (inter-connected) ways so that we can change ourselves in order to change the world.”
She is to my left in book form — the only one on the top of this particular shelf — The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait.
She is to my right in true Xicana art form: a wooden cross, accented with aluminum, handcrafted and painted with love.
Every time i sit down to do my work, to create, i am bisected on all sides by her spirit. i like it that way. Every day as i sit down to work she reminds of how i want to work: connectively, deeply, and fully.
And it’s the exact same way i want to help you and the world create — connected to ourselves and deeply representational of our experiences, lives, struggles, pleasures — and, yes, pain.
It’s what i strive to do now — and what i will strive to do always. No matter where the roads lead us.
Te quiero. Gracias porque vives, porque ayer me dejaste tocar tu luz más íntima y porque dijiste con tu voz y tus ojos lo que yo esperaba toda mi vida. – Frida Kahlo
English: “I love you. Thank you for being alive, for allowing me to touch your most intimate light and for saying with your voice and your eyes what I’ve been waiting for all my life.”
i would also add, diciéndolo con tu arte — “saying it with your art.”
Mucho love and light your creative way and feliz cumpleaños Frida!