Frida Kahlo Paints "My Dress Hangs There"

After completing the Detroit murals in March of 1933, Diego and Frida traveled to New York City where Rivera was commissioned to paint a mural in the Rockefeller Center.

While Diego painted the mural, Frida began work on her painting "My Dress Hangs There"… a painting that expressed her discontentment with the United States, its social decay and its fundamental human values. In this painting, Frida expresses her dim view of the United States which is just the opposite view of Diego's who was expressing his approval of the industrial progress in his own mural. Frida was homesick and wanted to return to Mexico but Diego insisted that it was for the best if they stayed in the United States.

After more than three years in America, Frida wanted desperately to return to her native Mexico. Diego, however, remained fascinated by the country and his popularity and did not want to leave. Out of the conflict came this painting. The only collage in the artist's oeuvre, it represents an ironic portrait of American capitalism and superficiality. Filled with symbols of a modern American industrial society, it points to social decay and the destruction of fundamental human values. In this painting, Frida takes an opposite view to her husband, who was expressing his approval of industrial progress in a mural in the Rockefeller Center.

What is missing from this painting is the focal point of nearly all of Frida's paintings…herself. Instead, Frida's Tehuana dress hangs empty and alone amidst the chaos in the background.

In another painting from her United States sojourn, My Dress Hangs There, Kahlo scourges the United States with representations of the accoutrements of bourgeois life-style (a toilet, a telephone, and a sports trophy) and indicts its hypocrisy by wrapping a dollar sign around the cross of a church. Her appropriated photographs of Depression-era unemployment, which constitute the lower part of the pictgure, juxtapose "reality" with the "made-up" painting and thereby highlight the vulgar display of American wealth and well-being as opposed to the poverty and suffering of the lower classes. In the midst of this Kahlo places a pristine image: the Tehuana dress. This traditional costume of Zapotec women from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is one of the few recurring indigenous representations in Kahlo's work that is not Aztec. Becauce Zapotec women represent and ideal of freedom and economic independence, their dress probably appealed to Kahlo.