|Photo by Imogen Cunningham|
Frida poured out oils in many colors onto roiling emotional seas. I'm ashamed to admit that I romanticized her pain when I was in my twenties. I thought to be a true artist, you had to be tortured in body and soul, the more tortured, the more inspired, the more true. I devoured every book I could find on Frida, and stood before her paintings with their pulsing hearts floating disembodied, on display at the Museum of Furniture Design, of all places. As I stood there I even scolded the love of her life, the painter Diego Rivera, for the way he sometimes neglected her astonishing gifts, more than equal to his, pursuing his own enormous ambition. But she let him do that. She never painted for fame and adulation. Other demons drove her.
|"The Broken Column," 1944|
I now own a copy of her reproduced diary, and I am lost in its extraordinary pages, the flowing cursive in colored pens, the surreal colors and themes of the art she did only for herself, working out elements of her paintings, or journaling through startlingly beautiful and horrifying images of suffering and trauma and revolution and love and loneliness and irony and infatuation and always the pain. The French writer Andre Breton described her art as "a ribbon tied around a bombshell." I think that says it as well as anything. And yet she staved off the bomb's full detonation through art and maybe also through love.
|From The Diary of Frida Kahlo|
|"Feet what do I need you for |
when I have wings to fly. 1953"
Frida had many lovers, male and female, but it was Diego Rivera she loved best. And it is his description of her work that I find most haunting. "I recommend her to you, not as a husband but as an enthusiastic admirer of her work," he is reported to have said to Picasso. "Acid and tender, hard as steel and delicate and fine as a butterfly's wing, lovable as a beautiful smile, and profound and cruel as the bitterness of life." I like to think that in the end Frida's strength and stubborn perseverance in the face of her life's trauma came from some memory of grace. I'm still romanticizing.