Frida Kahlo is, undoubtedly, an iconic artist. Her paintings continue to engage even a contemporary audience. And her life story inspires us to transmute our pain into beauty.
Among her many famous quotes, you might have ran across this one:
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do.”
That quote, though mainstream, was not created by Kahlo at all. It was actually made by a 17-year-old girl in 2008.
The early 2000s were a time where teenagers transitioned from the private journal entry to the more public—while still anonymous—forums of online blogs. Rebecca Martin found her creative outlet on a site called PostSecret. Using a magazine cut-out image of Kahlo, she combined it with her typed-out words as a mini collage and posted it to the site.In an interview with BuzzFeed, Martin shared how excited she was to see that her work made it to the very top of the blog. Little did she know that it would begin a long-enduring mix-up of creative attribution.
This Quote Has Been Attributed To Frida Kahlo For Years, But It's Actually From A Canadian Teenager https://t.co/LHD94Mr4Lr— ade onibada (@SincerelyAde) December 1, 2021
The quote spread like artistic wildfire. In 2015, Martin discovered a comic strip featuring a young girl, with a similar appearance to Kahlo. In the comic, the young girl struggles to find a sense of belonging until she stumbles across the works of Frida Kahlo. Martin’s quote not only makes it into the comic, it’s the written through line of the piece. And it’s credited to Kahlo.
Martin then had to contact Quote Investigator, the comic creator and the Frida Kahlo estate to receive proper attribution. But that wouldn’t be the end of it.
"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do." — Frida Kahlo— MoMA The Museum of Modern Art (@MuseumModernArt) November 22, 2021
Frida Kahlo. “Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair.” 1940. pic.twitter.com/lWIvk73s7y
Recently, on November 22, the Museum of Modern Art used the quote while promoting its exhibit featuring three of Kahlo's most famous self-portraits. The museum quickly corrected itself in a follow-up post. But still, the erroneous tweet remains.
Reading the quote, you can see how even a high-profile institution like MoMA would mistakenly hear Kahlo's voice. Both women share the same soft, poetic nature. But this sparks another question. Would people find the message as impactful knowing it came from a teenage girl online, rather than then famous Frida Kahlo?
Martin seems to think otherwise. She told BuzzFeed “I think people really like to believe that Frida Kahlo said it because she's such a powerful figure and the quote is really very vulnerable and soft, and it's asking for connection and I think people like to feel connected to Frida Kahlo in that way. I think it's less exciting to feel connected to me.”
Which is a bit sad, really. Clearly Martin’s quote moved people. And creativity doesn’t become more or less moving when it comes from someone famous. This alludes to an odd form of celebrity worship we have as a society, which keeps us from being affected by one another in a genuine way.
Just as Kahlo's works are no longer simply hers, so too have Martin's words morphed into something all their own. Such is the nature of art once we share it with the world. Better yet, Martin's unique experience made way for her own special connection with one of the world’s greatest artists, someone “bizarre and flawed” just like her.
By the way, if you’re curious about what actual Frida Kahlo quotes look like, here are a few:
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
“Pain, pleasure and death are no more than a process for existence. The revolutionary struggle in this process is a doorway open to intelligence"
“Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light. Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing.”
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