The Diary of Frida Kahlo
January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
Frida Kahlo struggled with physical infirmary for most of her life. At six she contracted polio, and at 18 she got into a near fatal trolley accident. For the next period of her life she was confined to her four-poster bed with a mirrored top, trapped in plaster body casts. Forced by her suffering to confront her own image and identity, she painted what may be the most famous self-portraits in history. Through her images Kahlo created an autobiography detailing her quest to understand both herself and her world. It is a mixture of dark knowledge and jubilant passion that one sees looking into the deep-set eyes of her self portraits, the dry ground she lies upon, or the scattered Mexican talismans lying nearby. Her paintings explore revolution, westernization, industrialization, tradition, bloodlines, love, freedom, death, and disaster, with a frank lack of discretion that catches us off guard no matter how many times we see them her paintings.
Despite spending nearly half of her life confined to bed, she became a Mexican cultural icon; her persona as much a part of her mystique as her art is. According to the bare bone details of her life Kahlo could easily be categorized as the cliché female stereotype in the art world: victimized, suffering, eccentric to the point of destruction. But what keeps Frida’s face plastered on posters, umbrellas, lighters, tote bags, murals, museum walls, the walls of Madonna’s mansion, and in the ephemeral crawl space of our minds and hearts is her ability to paint the dreadful beasts that lurk in our souls, worshipping them as a thing of beauty. She dares us to grasp the horns of the devil and look him right in the eye, explaining to us with delicate brush strokes that this is the only way to the goddess-like passion and vibrancy she embodied, and towards which we nervously tread, grappling for truth.
*If you like Frida Kahlo’s work I recommend reading “Frida Kahlo: Painting Her Own Reality. I provides a short but complete biography and nice reproductions of her paintings. I found my copy at a MOMA museum store in JFK but you can buy it on amazon.