6

JAN

"I NEVER PAINT DREAMS OR NIGHTMARES. I PAINT MY OWN REALITY." –FRIDA KAHLO

POSTED IN: '74 GAZETTE

She once said, "I paint myself because I'm so often alone and because I am the subject I know best". What else she did she paint? She painted pain, suffering, love, lust, passion and being broken but bold. In her portraits, she became the embodiment of each.

The iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s life and art continues to be an inspiration today. She was diagnosed with polio at the age of six, which caused her right leg to be thinner than the left. When she was a teenager, she had a traffic accident which left her with a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed right foot and other complications. After the accident, she also lost her ability to reproduce. In her lifetime, Frida had 30 operations in total and her health conditions continued to get worse until 1954, when she eventually passed away. 

None of these, she says, were as bad as being in love with her long time lover and husband, the acclaimed Mexican artist Diego Rivera. She had a few miscarriages which had also affected her mental health, causing her to suffer long periods of depression. 

The Broken Column

In this painting, Frida expresses her pain that is caused by the accident in the most straightforward way. Her whole body is supported with a corset. The most striking part of this painting is the broken column that is put in place of her spine. It is as if the column is on the verge of collapsing, whose phallic appearance also implies a troubled sexual life. Dozens of nails are stuck into her face and other parts of her nude body, indicating the pains of her condition. She has tears in her eyes but her facial expression shows us that she remains strong. It is as if she is at the point of a spiritual triumph, looking straight ahead and challenging the life of suffering that awaits her.

Henry Ford Hospital, 1932

This painting depicts Frida’s feelings when she had her miscarriage at Henry Ford hospital. Once again she is naked, with blood and hemorrhage. Her body is twisted and the bed that she lies on seems to be much too big for her, as if she gets lost or buried in it. There are six objects flying around her, a recurring pattern that we see in some of her paintings. We see a male fetus that she wanted to have with Diego, an orchid which looks like an uterus, umbilical cords and the snail which is the symbol of the slowness of the operation. This painting has a primitivistic style which we also see in most of her paintings.

Self Portrait With Necklace

Frida was still in Detroit when she painted this painting. While recovering from her miscarriage, she started to paint again. The necklace that she wears is actually a pre-Columbian jewelry, made of jade beads. Once again, she has overcome a tragedy and has expressed her self-confidence in her portrait. This is the first painting that she depicts herself with a shadow of a mustache.

The Two Fridas, 1939 by Frida Kahlo

Kahlo completed this painting after her divorce with her husband and love of her life, Diego Rivera. The two different personalities of Frida are emphasized with her outfits. The one on the left is a traditional Tehuana costume with a broken heart. The other one sits right besides her, who appears to be much more independent, modern and strong. The driving point of this painting was found in one of her dairies, where she wrote it had originated from her memory of an imaginary childhood friend. Later on, she admitted that the painting actually expressed her loneliness and sorrow after her separation from Diego. We notice that the Frida on the right is holding the one on the left’s hand, comforting her for the loss. Their hearts are similar but the one who is wearing the traditional dress bears a heart that is cut open and wounded. The blood that spills from her main artery only stains the Frida on the left. The background is also interesting, depicting a stormy sky filled with grey clouds. The sky reflects Kahlo’s inner turmoil and provides a setting for the two Fridas.