So after asking for suggestions last week from everyone, Michelle requested for a post on Frida Kahlo.
Once upon a time, I knew nothing about Frida Kahlo. All I knew was that she was a Mexican painter who had a unibrow and was played by Selma Hayek in a movie about her life. Shame on me. Shame on me.
Now, I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface and I want to know more! Has anyone watched the movie? I’m curious if I should now.
So let’s talk about Frida Kahlo and what is surely a very colorful and very interesting life. The timeline is also quite confusing, so I will do my best.
Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 but she claims her birthday was in 1910 to sync up with the Mexican Revolution. That’s really neither here nor there, I just think it’s an interesting tidbit to get into Frida’s state of mind.
While Frida never claims having the disease, she was born with spina bifida which royally messed up her spine and right leg. When she was 6, she contracted polio. This left her right leg further compromised and thinner than her left leg. She wore long colorful skirts to cover up this deformity.
The physical tragedy didn’t end there for Kahlo. When she was 18, she got into a trolley car accident where she suffered a variety of injuries including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, and a crushed right foot. The worst injury was the iron handrail which pierced her abdomen and her uterus. This injury prevented her from reproducing and caused Frida serious psychological pain.
Frida was confined to the hospital to recover from these injuries. In the hospital, her father gave her some paints and a specialized easel so she could paint while lying down. It was here she abandoned her plans to attend medical school and dedicated her life to painting.
Frida later met her husband Diego Rivera, also a painter. I won’t go into details, but from what I’ve read, their relationship belonged on a Tele Novela or some other crazy soap opera. Kahlo and Rivera both had several extramarital affairs, but there was a unyeilding passion between these two. If you’ve ever seen Vicki Christina Barcelona, I imagine it to be like Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. All fireworks and angst. This is a picture entitled “Diego in my thoughts”. The spider web that ensnares her is pretty haunting, huh? Love has caused some of the greatest mental pain we could ever know.
I couldn’t find anything that specifically outlined any mental illness diagnosis for Kahlo, but based on her writings and paintings, Kahlo had some issues with identity and depression. She lived through chronic pain which was reflected psychologically in her painting. Much of her art is filled with graphic images associated with her body image and her attempt to reconcile her illness and pain.
Kahlo died on July 13, 1954. Shortly before her death she wrote in her diary: “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return — Frida”.
Much like many artists similar to Frida’s genius, her art was not fully appreciated until the 1980’s. I am thankful she was so brave to share her thoughts and allow herself to be so vulnerable with her pain. I am sure that many people have found solace knowing their similar emotions could be expressed with the same freedom as Kahlo’s.