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Birthday by Dorothea Tanning is also an oil on canvas paining created during the mid- nineteen hundred, in 1942. Birthday is a self-portrait of Tanning herself standing in her home with bare chest and feet and a dark creature with wings at her feet. Both paintings are currently on display at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA exhibition of In Wonderland. The subject matter in both compositions represents the artist expressing the world within their own minds with dream- like figures and symbols. Therefore, feminism and psychoanalytic theory, a theory within surrealism can be applied to assist a better understanding of the art. This essay intends to analyze these two paintings to give a better grasp of the intentions of the artists in creating the art. The Two Fridas depicts the pain and emotional suffering that Frida went through after her divorce with Rivera. The painting portrays the traditionally Mexican dressed and traditionally Mexican minded Frida exposed and hurt, sitting close to and holding the right hand of an independent, cosmopolitan and strong Frida. Both the hearts of the two Fridas are visible but that of the traditional Frida is cut, bleeding and torn open. In the painting, the main right artery coming from the torn heart of the weak Frida is severed and she tries to stop the flow of blood using surgical pincers. However, it continues to drip onto her white traditional dress forming a crimson pool. This leaves her weak and wretched. Contrarily, the heart of the strong Frida, is completely intact and thus she is strong, unscathed and in a position to protect the weak, traditional Frida. She supplies lifeblood to the weaker traditional Frida through a connecting vein. Birthday portrays an unsmiling exotically dressed young Dorothea standing on a wooden tilted floor and holding a white porcelain doorknob which opens into an infinite recession of doors. The room is lit by shimmering mother-of-pearl light. Dorothea’s ruffled jacket opened to expose her bare chest. This tops a skirt of green tendrils. Close to her bare feet is a dark furry creature with eagle-like wings and a long tail. A combination of these features gives an extraordinary perspective. Seemingly, the extraordinary is ready to accompany Dorothea into the adventures that lying beyond the doors. Dorothea is precisely set in space but this happens as a fantasy more than reality1. Psychological theories have revealed that the unconscious part of the mind of a human being has important messages for the person’s conscious mind. However, the unconscious mind communicates to the conscious through archetypes and symbols but the conscious mind communicates through language. Basing on this discovery, surrealist artists produce artwork that form a link between spiritual abstract realities and the real or actual forms of the material world2. This gives their artwork their erotically charged and dreamlike features and the Two Fridas and Birthday fit into this description. Instead of perpetrating the traditional, weak and loyal Frida, the Two Fridas gives the image of a new, strong, independent, and self-determined woman that Frida desired to be. The strong Frida speaks of the need to break from unrealistic and unreachable cultural expectations and societal traditions. Instead of being weak, Frida changed into a non-conforming woman who can be depended upon, an icon of strength and leadership. Birthday filters the desires and dreams of surrealist vision through a self-portrait. Although the painting portrays an astonishing likeness of Dorothea, this representation extends into creating a character than to expose a preexisting character3.
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