Essay Sample: August Wilson Life and Work and Frida Kahlo Life and Paintings

Published: 2022-07-13
Essay Sample: August Wilson Life and Work and Frida Kahlo Life and Paintings
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Biography Art
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1869 words
16 min read

August Wilson was a playwright of African-American identity who wrote several plays about the life of black Americans. He was born on 27th April, 1945 in Pennsylvania. In his plays, he highlighted the struggles that the African-Americans were experiencing (Martin & Downing, 2014). On the other hand, Frida Kahlo was considered as one of the greatest artists from Mexico. She was born on 6th July 1907 in Mexico City. She was a self-portrait artist who remains admired in the contemporary world as a feminist icon (Kitson, 2017). This paper aims at exploring the life and works of art of August Wilson, as well as the life and paintings of Frida Kahlo. The paper will provide an in-depth view of the similarity and difference between the life of the life of the author and that of the artist while establishing the messages they are trying to send.

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A Similarity Between the Life of The Author and Artist. The Experiences That Shaped Their Lives and Artwork. The Conflicts That They Faced

Both August Wilson and Frida Kahlo suffered psychological torture. Wilson was tortured psychologically due to racial prejudice in his neighborhood where Wilson and his family were forced to move out of their house in Hazelwood to look for a new home. In Central Catholic High School, Wilson found life very difficult as they were only fourteen black students in the school. He could not cope with life due to racial hostility against African-Americans in the school (La Donna, 2016). When he moved to Gladstone High School, he dropped out in the tenth grade after a false accusation of plagiarism. The experiences tortured Wilson psychologically as he could not find a peaceful place to acquire his education. Kahlo suffered psychologically when she contracted polio at the age of six and the tragic road accident that severely injured her and led to a lot of pain. She sustained severe injuries like the spinal and pelvic fractures. However, when she returned home for further recuperation, Kahlo began to paint and worked on several self-portraits (Courtney, O'Hearn, & Franck, 2016). Kahlo faced conflict in her marriage. The conflict is evident where her husband began an affair with her sister, Cristina. The affair led to Kahlo's and Rivera's divorce, which however did not last long before they remarried. Conversely, the fatal accident damaged the pelvis of Kahlo to an extent that it could not support a baby hence leading to a miscarriage and terminations.

A Difference Between the Life of The Author and Artist. The Experiences That Shaped Their Lives and Artwork. The Conflicts That They Faced

August Wilson was initially known as Frederick August Kittel. Daisy Wilson who was August's mother had an African-American heritage. However, the father, Frederick Kittel was a German immigrant. August Wilson experienced a hard childhood due to prejudice and abandonment by his father. The struggles made him write plays about the reality of racism and how he overcame the racial prejudices. These are reflected through the works of African American drama (Martin & Downing, 2014). The author pours out his life, the hardship he went through, as well as the horrifying difficulty, which the African Americans faced in different generations. The racism that Wilson encountered during his childhood influenced his writing. When he attended Central Catholic High School, he faced relentless bigotry of classmates, which forced him to transfer to Connelly Vocational High School (Jose & Raj, 2014).

On the other hand, Frida Kahlo grew up in her family's home in Coyocoan, Mexico City. She had poor health during her childhood as she contracted polio when she was six years of age and was bedridden for nine months. The disease made her right leg to grow thinner as compared to the left one (Kitson, 2017). After recovery from polio, she limped. As opposed to Wilson's father who abandoned him, Kahlo's father Guillermo Kahlo encouraged her to engage in sporting activities for a quick recovery. As such, she began to play soccer, joined wrestling, and went swimming (Courtney et al., 2016). In 1922, Kahlo joined National Preparatory School in Mexico City where she interacted with students who shared similar intellectual and political views. Within the same year, she encountered a tragic road accident that left her severely injured. She had a fractured pelvis and spine hence leaving her in physical and physiological pain. The accident influenced her painting in that she wanted something to pass the time and alleviate pain as she returned home to recover fully. In 1923, she finished the first self-portrait. Kahlo's parents encouraged her to paint while she was in bed (Launer, 2018).

The Similarities Between the Author and The Artist's Work. What Their Work Represents. Themes, Characterization, Allusions, And Symbolism

The theme of culture is evident in both the works of August Wilson and the paintings of Frida Kahlo. Wilson writes about the sufferings and struggles of the blacks in the American society. Kahlo uses her self-portraits to depict the traditions of Mexicans. She aims to ensure that the Mexican artists recognize the traditions of their culture and do away with the European influences. As Kahlo stands on what resembles a curtained stage, it reflects the vernacular paintings of the Mexicans. Such painting is the Self-portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky, 1937 (Kitson, 2017).

Additionally, both the author and the artist use symbolism in their works. In Wilson's play, Fences, fence is used as a symbol. The fence is a literal and figurative symbol that represents bonding and breaking of relationships in the backyard (La Donna, 2016). Frida uses the conch and scallop to symbolize her union with Diego Rivera as seen in her painting Diego and I, 1944. She used bright colors to symbolize the indigenous Mexican culture.

The Differences Between the Author and The Artist's Work. What Their Work Represents. Themes, Characterization, Allusions, And Symbolism

August Wilson was a great poet and storyteller. Having been born to an African-American mother and a white father, Wilson grew up in the black culture and did not acknowledge any significant influence from the side of the father. Culture is an evident theme in his plays like Fences, Jitney, Bessie, and The Piano Lesson. The plays tell the black culture story and how blacks relate in the society where they live. The author was devoted to helping the blacks know their roots and understand themselves (Jose & Raj, 2014). Wilson dramatized the tensions within the black community as he was upholding the dignity of the blacks as they struggled with their past encounters. In characterization of Wilson's work, Wilson tends to introduce characters in the plays who subsequently become the main characters. For instance, in Seven Guitars, King Hedley was depicted as a cracked old man who always sees ghosts and is obsessed with fathering of a child (La Donna, 2016). In the subsequent play, King Hedley II characterizes an ex-con who comes back home and have to deal with his past. Ideally, Wilson uses the fence as a symbol in the play Fences. The common instances in which fences are symbolized are the relationship between Roy Maxson and Troy Maxson, as well as Troy against Mr. Death. Fences are also used for protecting characters. In the case of Rose, the fence is used to symbolize love and nurturing in a safe environment (Jose & Raj, 2014).

Conversely, in Kahlo's paintings, the most common themes are identity and sexuality. In her art, The Two Fridas, there is a reworking of dresses by the modern Mexican artist. One Frida is in a European dress who befits the German father of Frida Kahlo while the other Frida has Mexican costume representing her Mexican mother (Courtney et al., 2016). In Kahlo's self-portraits, she has an elegant and embroidered skirt, gold jewelry, and shawl, which show a sense of allusion. The traditional attire alludes to the movement of Mexican artists who worked during the Revolutionary decade that saw the artists return to their folk traditions while rejecting the European influences. Her work is characterized as part of naive art as she incorporated surreal and graphic elements in her paintings. The self-portraits are symbolic portrayals of her psychological and the physical wounds (Launer, 2018).

Message/Messages the Author and Artist Are Trying to Send. How Their Work Is Impacted by The Period in Which It Is Created

August Wilson sends the message about racism and racial prejudice that the blacks faced. During the period when Wilson worked on his plays, there were increased cases of racism and discrimination based on ethnicity. The whites discriminated blacks in the American society. As such, Wilson ensured that his plays focused on issues touching on the lives of the people discriminated. The blacks struggled to survive in a community made up of mostly whites (Martin & Downing, 2014). Contrarily, Kahlo sends the message of identity through the traditional attire, which is evident in her paintings. In essence, the Mexican artists would adopt their folk traditions and recognize their roots while rejecting the influences of the European community. The portrait that Kahlo painted about herself and Diego Rivera sends the message of deep love, which the artist had for her husband notwithstanding their tumultuous relationship. Her marriage to Rivera had a substantial impact on her paintings by visualizing Kahlo's love. Kahlo worked on her self-portraits and paintings at a period when there was much influence from the European nations. Consequently, the Mexicans were so much into the European culture that they could not value own customs and traditions. Kahlo realized the need to create self-portraits with the themes of culture and identity to enable the Mexicans promote the cultural practices in their community (Kitson, 2017).


August Wilson wrote about the experience and undocumented lives of the African-Americans. His works can be found in 'The Pittsburg Cycle' or the 'Century Cycle.' The plays are set in the twentieth century each in a different decade (La Donna, 2016). Wilson's work presents the hardness that one goes through after the opportunity to achieve their visions and goals in life is constrained by racism. His works have transformed literature and art as they enable people to understand the racial prejudices against the African-Americans. In contrast, the paintings of Frida Kahlo are displayed in the Frida Kahlo Museum found in Mexico City. La Casa Azul is the location of the museum, which was also the childhood home of the artist. Her self-portraits depict a sense of the indigenous Mexican culture that is apparent in the use of bright colors. The portraits include a symbolic monkey that symbolizes lust in the Mexican mythology. The artistic works of Wilson enable different people to establish the existence of racism and discrimination within different communities. People have commemorated the legacy of Kahlo in various ways. She features as a protagonist in different fictional novels like Mujica's Frida, 2001. The works and paintings of Wilson and Kahlo have inspired artists and are the subject of stage performances (Launer, 2018).


Courtney, C. A., O'Hearn, M. A., & Franck, C. C. (2016). Frida Kahlo: Portrait of chronic pain. Physical therapy, 97(1), 90-96.

Jose, S., & Raj, S. J. (2014). Generational Dissension in August Wilson's Fences. International Research Journal of Management Sociology and Humanity, 5(2), 568-582.

Kitson, J. (2017). Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World. Education, 98(8), 22-22.

La Donna, L. F. (2016). August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle: Critical Perspectives on the Plays ed. by Sandra G. Shannon. Theatre...

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