Frida Kahlo- Crow Father

Frida Kahlo’s autobiographical work has been an important key during research of narrative artwork. Her painting of The dream, the bed (1940), I found particularly mesmeric as the artist is also the viewer and death is not a taboo subject as in our culture but is celebrated in Mexico ( Day of the Dead). The vines and flowers I felt alluded to new life, creation and growth. This made me reflect on the Yew tree symbol of our ancient culture that I had infused my painting with, except mine I felt was a marker for time.

Portrait of my Father, 1951 by Frida Kahlo

This portrait was painted by Frida Kahlo after the death of her father and she continued to work on it for over a decade. The inscription commemorates him fighting against Hitler and also suffering from epilepsy. Kahlo painted him in sepia which reflects his role as a photographer and could be read as his artistic influence upon her. This I found interesting because I had created a partner painting for ‘Crow Mother’, using a sepia photograph of my father and the idea of the battle, both internal and external with addiction that he struggled with and ultimately lost nearly fifty years ago. In some ways, I felt that he was the original wild and damaged creature in ‘Crow Mother’ that mum was nursing. There was a link. Again across time.

Crow Father – Work in progress, Lisa Kilty

In the process of creating this work I used the only photograph I’d had of him as a child which was a small sepia profile shot of him looking to the left. I always wondered what the unknown side of his face looked like. As a response to this question, I decided to flip the picture and enlarge it in the digital print studio, Salford. I then used it as a source for this painting. That way, as an artist (and a daughter), I finally had ‘the full picture’; both known and unknown, yet no face is symmetrical.

The Crow helmet that I am still working on links back to the description in the book
‘Crow’ by Boria Sax , of Celtic Warrior, Valerius Corvus, ‘Valerius the Crow’ (p56). The idea of the crow being present at, and a symbol of battle (be it addiction or otherwise) inspired me to develop the crow helmet idea. The family name and my art name – Kilty came originally from Caoilte, an Irish warrior from the fianna (war band) of Fionn Mac Cumhaill. This name has changed over time and was anglicized when my family fled the potato famine. Family history has us believe we are descended from Irish giants and warriors. This is a story of our ancestral origins passed down orally through time and infusing our present.

My three paintings now evolved into a crow family triptych: Crow Mother, Crow Father and Crow Daughter.