FRIDA KAHLO, an influential Mexican painter known for her folk-art inspired works, was almost always surrounded by a menagerie of animals; monkeys, dogs, parrots, parakeets, chickens, macaws, a pet eagle (named Gertrudis Caca Blanca, “Gertrude White S***), and a fawn. Kahlo’s early life was filled with tragedy. At age six she contracted polio, permanently injuring her right arm, and at age 11 was in a terrible bus accident, resulting in an inability to have children. Perhaps it was this early tragedy, or her inability to give birth, that created her love of animals. Kahlo’s paintings are filled with self portraits surrounded by her pets. Kahlo said about her art, “I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that is paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.” While in the public’s eye, Kahlo was a heterosexual woman; in private, the truth differed greatly. Kahlo had a tumultuous marriage with the famous Mexican artist, Diego Rivera. Both of them however had many affairs, with both genders, outside their marriage. Rivera tolerated Kahlo’s female relationships, but her male lovers sparked jealousy. Kahlo’s animals truly shared her life more than any person ever could. They served as both her companions and muses.
Andy Warhol, famous for his pop art style, had an animal muse, a dachshund named Archie. Archie accompanied Warhol almost everywhere: dinner, parties, gallery openings, and even his art studio where he made several famous prints of his dachshund. Surprisingly, growing up Warhol had an affiliation with cats, as he lived with multiple felines throughout the 50s and 60s. This love even resulted in a collection titled “25 Cats Named Sam and One Blue Pussy.” The love of dogs came when Warhol’s boyfriend, Jed Johnson, convinced Warhol they should get a dog. It was Johnson who chose the short-haired, dark-brown, dachshund; thus Warhol’s relationship Archie was born. Warhol was an openly gay male before the gay rights movement, and his homoerotic drawings and films brought much of the underlying gay culture into the mainstream. While he was not an activist in his lifetime, Warhol’s contributions to the gay rights movement were immeasurable.
Salvador Dali had two ocelots, Babou and Bouba, who were both his traveling companions and muses. One famous incident occurred in an art gallery in Paris. The owner yelled at Dali, stating,” your g**d***ed cat has made a nuisance on my priceless 17th century engravings.,” Dali responded, “A nuisance of Dali’s can only increase their value.” This proved true, as the now stained and doubly important engravings sold for twice as much. While Dali was happily married, there were rumors of a relationship with Spanish painter Federico Lorca. While Dali confirmed the two were dear friends, Lorca was openly gay. Dali denied a physical relationship stating, “he [Lorca] was a homosexual, as everyone knows, and madly in love with me… He tried to screw me twice…I was extremely annoyed, because I wasn’t homosexual, and I wasn’t interested in giving in.
Besides, it hurts. So nothing came of it. But I felt awfully flattered vis-à-vis the prestige. Deep down I felt that he was a great poet and that I owe him a tiny bit of the Divine Dali’s asshole.” Whatever the speculation was, Dali openly denied the rumors of homosexuality but still remained a close friend and ally to Lorca. Dali’s open-mindedness through his surrealist thinking made him a great ally to the LGBTQ community around him, as well as an advocate for the animals he truly loved.