Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happy Birthday Frida Kahlo!

Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist, was born on this day in 1907. I have always admired Frida Kahlo, not just for her paintings, but for what she endured in her life time. Her paintings, which are a majority of self-portraits, reflect the physical and emotional pain she endured from her accident as a teen, her tumultuous marriage to Diego Rivera, and her three miscarriages.

Kahlo’s physical challenges began at the age of 6 when she contracted polio which caused her right leg to be thinner than her left. At the age of 18, she suffered numerous debilitating injuries when the trolley she was riding in crashed. Kahlo suffered a broke spinal column, broken collarbone, broken ribs and pelvis, 11 fractures to her right leg, her right foot was crushed and dislocated, and her shoulder was dislocated. In addition, a broken iron handrail pierced her abdomen and uterus which resulted in her inability to have children. These injuries plagued her entire life. Bouts of extreme pain would confine her to bed for months.

Ironically, Kahlo didn’t start to paint until after her accident as a way to pass the time. I often ponder the plan the Divine has for us when I read of a story like this where one’s true calling is found in the mist of despair. Kahlo continued to paint and one recovered sought the guidance of the famous mural painter Diego Rivera. Soon their friendship blossomed into a love affair despite his reputation for womanizing
Frida and Diego were married on August 21, 1929 when she was 22 and he was 42. It was Rivera’s third marriage and Frida’s first. Their marriage was plagued with heartbreak as well. Rivera continued to womanize and eventually had an affair with her sister. She had many affairs throughout their marriage as well. They were divorced in November 1939 largely due to his affairs and violent temper. Frida and Diego didn’t stay apart for long, however, and remarried in December 1940. They remained married until her death on July 13, 1954.

Frida communicated her physical pain, her anguish over losing 3 children, and the hurt of Diego’s cheating through the brutally honest imagery of her portraits. Whenever I look at her paintings, I see part of myself. I would highly recommend the movie Frida. It is one of my favorite movies and is a brilliant depiction of Frida’s life.