(Victor Oliver, editor of the Astrological Journal, has very kindly asked me to write a column loosely about “fashion”. I’ll be publishing them here too.)
A squiggle of monobrow, two beady black eyes — it’s a shorthand for Frida Kahlo, the long-dead Mexican artist that just about everyone can recognise instantly.
If the mood took you, you could kit out your house with Frida Kahlo magnets, coasters, posters, mirrors, matchboxes, tea-trays, lampshades, curtains, and maybe even an old-fashioned Frida phone. You could have that inimical gaze staring at you from every corner and surface of your home. If you really wanted to, you could wear a different Kahlo T-shirt every day for the next six months, and maybe make yourself a lovely pair of knickerbockers from some Frida fabric available on Etsy.
Or, like Theresa May, you could content yourself with a bangle.
If you wanted to be a little more subtle, making an homage rather than wearing her image, you might purchase a wildly ruffled skirt from Gucci’s Winter 2017 collection, or one of those fabulous suits from Isabel Marant — both inspired by Kahlo. This year’s ubiquitous cactus and watermelon motifs at the stationery shop and the haberdashery counter, on your children’s T-shirts, echo Kahlo. Her face and her influence, loud or soft, is everywhere.
There’s even a name for this collective obsession: Fridamania.
Since her “re-discovery” in the late 1970s, a quarter of a century after her early death, Kahlo’s fame has ballooned steadily.
She’s inspired designers from the late Alexander McQueen, Jean-Paul Gaultier to the very current D&G; popstars such as Bjork and Rihanna, a biopic, biographies, documentaries, innumerable style features and academic papers. Today you can get the app, wear the Converse Kahlos on your feet and drink a shot of Frida Tequila.
Raised from the dead
Frida Kahlo died on July 13, 1954, by her own hand. Pluto was exactly — almost to the minute — crossing her Ascendant. As we know, the Lord of the Underworld transforms, and he can even resurrect.
Kahlo’s posthumous ascent to international superstardom began with an exhbition that opened in May 1982 at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. She shared the space with the photographer Tina Modotti, but the latter was soon left in the dust. Pluto was precisely trining the conjunction of Venus — the planet of art — and Pluto in her natal chart. And it was her art, at this point, which was finally being recognised as powerful, emotional, extraordinary. Pluto was also squaring her North Node in Cancer.
Since that moment of rebirth, the power of Kahlo’s influence has strengthened. She has become a cult. Her house — the Casa Azul in Mexico City — has become a shrine and place of pilgrimage. Her image has become an icon. This year, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s major fashion exhbition will be of Frida Kahlo’s clothes (starting June 2018). This wardrobe has toured the world’s museums like the relics of saints used to.
The room where she kept her clothes was sealed in 1954 after her death by her husband, the artist Diego Rivera, and not re-opened until 2004, the year that transiting Pluto finally opposed her natal Pluto-Venus conjunction.
In 2015, the New York Times wrote that Frida Kahlo was “having a moment” as Pluto opposed her Sun-Neptune conjunction and conjoined her Mars. This year, 2018, Pluto will oppose that Jupiter in Cancer. Kahlo is going to be big again, no doubt.
Which brings us to the interesting question: why? Undoubtedly, Kahlo is a wonderful artist. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing her paintings in the real, you’ll know their emotional impact. Her biography is fascinating — a life of passion and pain — Venus and Pluto. She was crippled by a terrible accident as a young woman and had to wear a full-torso brace for much of the time. She had numerous affairs with men and women, including the exiled Leon Trotsky. Her stormy, passionate marriage to Diego Rivera was the stuff of legend… and it goes on. Her house is wonderful. She was incredibly photogenic. She painted a hammer and sickle on her bodycast.
But you want to know about the astrology.
First of all, Kahlo is the full Crab. This is a sign of great allure anyway, but just look at what she has on either side of the Sun — Jupiter and Neptune, magnification and glamour. Magnificence and stardom. A huge ego, but one on to which we can all project an image of ourselves, thanks to the mirroring nature of Neptune. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that Kahlo is a hero for all kinds of people. She lived life exactly how she chose, despite constant physical pain, an unfaithful husband, disapproving society, her gender. Kahlo adhered to no stereotypes; she was self-invented.
Like another super-Cancerian, Marcel Proust, Kahlo draws us into her mind and her memories, shows us the world through her magical kaleidoscope. That’s the Neptune again, too, but it’s also something else.
The wizard Uranus sits opposite to Kahlo’s Cancer Sun-Neptune. She is the Queen of Unconvention in the heart of Capricorn. But maybe that Uranus in Capricorn gives her uniqueness longevity. Furthermore, Uranus to the Sun can have a peculiar (special) effect. Both Hillary Mantel and Meryl Streep have Uranus-Sun conjunctions in Cancer — one an author who takes us in a time-machine through history, the other an uncanny actress. Perhaps Kahlo’s Uranus-Sun opposition also performs a strange time-shift for her admirers.
Her posthumous Uranus Return took place in 1991 — in conjunction with Neptune. That was the year of the first Frida opera.
I am sure, looking at this chart, you will come up with some of your own theories about the icon with the mesmerising gaze (Venus-Pluto in Gemini) and the crown of flowers (Leo Rising). Because she is fascinating.