life . Portrait . street

Madison, WI


Fontana Giusti

January 2024 - butterflies

The prompt - The Wounded Deer by Frida Kahlo

What Frida's work means to me

Frida’s an icon. A queen. A goddess.

Her artwork puts her male contemporaries back into their place. Vulnerable and strong, expressing a singular view, inspired by a culture that considers magic part of what’s real, rooted in ancient stories, myths, and traditions.

She put her own self at the core of it. Looking straight at the viewer, almost defiantly, proud and fierce, but also soft. And that’s also because her own story was so powerful, crippled once by polio, twice by her bus accident. Passionately in love with a man who adored her but also betrayed and wounded her deeper that her injuries. Frida is the myth.

And I wanted to make something, but I also had very little energy for it, and I also didn’t know how to fill those giant metaphorical shoes.


So I decided to embrace self-portraiture, and to incorporate symbols that spoke to me.

And then I left.

Indeed, on the day after posting, I flew to Ciudad de Mexico, to cure my winter slump, but also to walk in her footsteps, because truly, I’ve been fascinated by her for so long, and I’ve been looking south for a while now, so that was long overdue. 

Mid-trip, I realized something I think I felt when I was making my piece but didn’t see until I was swimming into the magical beauty of Mexican culture. I’d made a vanitas.

I had to surround myself with all those symbols of death – the calaveras, the skeletons, the little demons – to realize that butterflies were oh so fitting as a symbol of Mexico. They’re a sign of change and metamorphosis, they’re a sign of the fleetingly short nature of life, they’re the prettiest reminder that everything dies.

– yes, Mexico is 100% obsessed with monarchs, and I believe that’s not only because it’s on their migration path –

I chose to call this piece l’anti-chasse aux papillons (the opposite of a butterfly hunt), because I’m not chasing them, the cage is open and there’s only one in them, I’m simply there, dreaming among a fluttering of them, flying free as the wind. And yes, this piece is a reminder of death.

There is no escaping it, we’re all headed in that direction. But in the meanwhile life is filled with so much beauty, simply lean into it.

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