Frida Kahlo knew how to serve face. Her face expressed the feelings of a generation, and she lived in a time when her face was needed. Wild with metaphor and mythology, Kahlo’s face burns into the present reality.
Kahlo’s whole life was wrapped up on her face. It contained an encyclopedia of symbols. Avid self-documentarian, she could maneuver her face-image into a persona, pivot it toward power. Kahlo’s face was an interface for her entire psychology, her body, limbs, feelings, womb. So it was foolish when a New York Times exhibition review in 1938 insulted her self-portraits as “more obstetrical than aesthetic.” Anatomy was her tragedy but she was never a victim to it. Polio as a child and then later the horrific bus crash. She underwent thirty surgeries in her short life, several miscarriages, and endless bodily pain. Then she died young. Kahlo wanted to be a doctor and she began studying medicine but the accident cut her schooling short. She would have to lie in bed, be a patient. In the mirror above her bed, she found her greatest specimen.
Kahlo leveraged her face. She understood it was more than just a random constellation of creases and wounds. On one hand, yes, she knew that faces are abstractions like flowers or music, but even in their arbitrary biomorphic configurations, faces mean something. Celebrity faces, mother faces, muse faces. There are faces we don’t forget, physiognomic geometries that generate reverence, longing, and joy.
She was androgynous, disabled, and desirous. She played up her brown skin tone in paint, a kind of makeup to accentuate indigenous values she admired, identified with, and projected. She painted her pain and the drama of life, but above all she painted self after self, and invented herself through painting.
She fashioned herself an outsider yet an international modernist; a cultural progressive as a Mexican revolutionary participating in the Mexican Renaissance; an immigrant and the colonized; of mixed European, Jewish, Mexican heritage. Her face opened up the possibility that one can be many things, that identity is not a pure, unmixed material. She is probably one of the first global art celebrities to embody a post-racial role as modern-woman-of-many-faces.
Finally, Kahlo knew the sideways glance of eternity, against death. After all, faces are people too, they’re not just paintings. Posthumously, Kahlo’s magnetism is so robust that even some of her admirers are famous in their own right, celebrated for the intensity of their admiration. Kahlo’s portrait photographers were artists. They knew how to perform her. In this tradition, Eric Finzi aims to extend Kahlo’s spirit and keep her in the circulation of existence. Every new painting is a chance for Finzi to put his hands into the cosmic goo and reanimate the spirit of Goddess Frida. He creates a renewed Kahlo using resin— a translucent substrate of DNA for Finzi’s revision of beautiful Saint Frida. Finzi wants to heal her.
Finzi’s paintings of Kahlo are Kahlo and they are not Kahlo. We recognize some famous poses, like Frida with the revolver, Frida with a pet bird, and then Finzi departs into historic fiction. He invents new settings for her to inhabit, new jewelry to wear, a new body. “This isn’t a historical exhibit,” says Finzi. In her pallor she is nearly anonymous, pushed to a boundary of abstraction whereby some of her key features must signal her entirety: unibrow, man’s suit, piercing eyes. Finzi has to decide which of these essential qualities will identify to the viewer that she is Frida. Frida-not-Kahlo. Eric reveals her image behind a painting effect, a flattening tool, the contour line of fame, the mask of Marilyn, Garbo, and Kahlo. Frida’s face is blank as a cinema screen, ready to receive, yet lurid as a memory before one blacks out after tequila. The last face you remember before you lose consciousness and the world fades to glassy white. The face that replays like flickering film footage in your mind.
Further departing into surrealism, Finzi asks his materials to have a life of their own. He injects the resin with pigment. The tints swirl like smoke and harden like that under resin, a kind of immortality. The artist respects the pre- consciousness of his materials, their intelligent gravity and color chemistry, so he gives them a framework to play within and to develop voice. He allows his materials to meander and then congeal into a new degree of Frida, a layering of dimensions, a speculation of life had she more seconds to live. With these materials, chance accidents are allowed if they are creative and not destructive. Finzi’s color hues are expressive and imagined. Frida was also always pursuing this new way of being.
Eric Finzi was born and raised in New York City. He studied life painting at Pratt Institute, studied under Harvey Dinnerstein at the Arts Student League in New York City, and taught ceramics at Cornwall Summer Workshop in Connecticut. After receiving his PhD, he enrolled full-time in the Art Students League with artist Knox Martin. He received a Fellowship at the National Cancer Institute and was a resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the Dermatology department. In 2003, Finzi began exhibiting his unique epoxy resin paintings in New York. Since then he has had solo exhibitions at galleries and museum in New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Ferrara, Italy and Cologne, Germany.