Mar 13th 2021
Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?
Frida Khalo faced possibly the three worst fears a parent has regarding their children: severe sickness, a life-impairing accident, and the impossibility of bearing children on their own. A tragic existence, a sad love story, and a life lived with every possible color in the rainbow.
Magdalena Carmen Frida Khalo y Calderon was a Mexican painter, born on July 6th of 1907, from a German father and a mestiza mother. Relatively unknown during her life and overshadowed by her famous husband –painter Diego Rivera, her popularity exploded in the recent era. Frida Khalo is a beacon among those trying to embrace the Mexican culture, a postcolonial identity; she is also a potent symbol for women worldwide. Her paintings permeate the pain and tears she endured and shed due to life events that marked her existence.
Her mother was intelligent and a religious fanatic that clashed against Kahlo's free spirit and wild temper. She became close to her father and preferred to spend her days helping him in his photography studio. This experience and the endless list of artists that stayed at her house or visited enriched her cultural taste. Although she never thought much more of it.
When she was only eight years old, Polio struck her, and so she became disabled. Amazed by the human body and learning about her own disease, she flirted with the idea of attending medical school to become a doctor. Frida was a passionate student, fully committed to her goals. One terrible morning –when she was only eighteen years old –she boarded a bus that got hit by a streetcar whose driver lost control of it. The accident killed many people and barely hurt Kahlo's companion. Unfortunately, during the crash, an iron handrail crossed her pelvis (she would later describe it as a "sword piercing a bull"); she also suffered from many other fractures and bone crushes. After a month in the hospital and two more in bed rest, she returned to work. Frida Khalo would never be the same, physically and mentally.
They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.
As famous as her health ordeals were his on-and-off relationship with Diego Rivera; many paintings feature him and the suffering she endured due to his constant infidelities or plain indifference. She, a hot-tempered woman herself, also indulged in many extramarital affairs with both women and men. A volatile relationship that steamed passion, jealousy, and heaping amounts of talent between the two of them.
What did Frida Khalo paint about? Unlike many other artists, Kahlo made her body and life the central theme of her work. Her famous self-portraits are like a story that one can spin by looking at the paintings, one by one. Many of Frida's personal life remained a secret until a new book published a series of letters that the painted exchanged with her doctor. Most of these discuss a miscarriage she suffered, a consequence of the accident injuries, and the realization that she would never become a mother.
Adding to the insult of being cheated on, Khalo witnessed how other women carried Rivera's babies in their wombs. She was even around these kids as they grew up. It is still not clear how many miscarriages or abortions Kahlo actually had. But her paintings are a true testimony of how much this issue crushed her chest with sorrow.
Perhaps in the middle of her over-the-top existence, this was the only innocent, untainted part of Frida Khalo. A life of excess, of alcohol abuse, chronic pain, unbridled behavior; all of this did not diminish the most primitive, pure desire inside a woman: to become a mother. Frida, the Mexican warrior, craved a child, a pupil –preferably a girl –to teach, educate, and tell her that society can be more equal for men and women. Frida Khalo knew she had much more to give, and to share, than her paintings. Her wisdom and experiences would have to pass down a generation where freedom allowed such knowledge to blossom.
Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light. Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing.
One thing can be said about Frida Khalo, she remained true to herself her entire life. There were no contradictions in her; she wanted to live with intensity, and she did. She desired to love and be loved with fierceness, which happened. Frida Khalo knew her days were marked with unbearable pain, but she endured them and painted them with tears in her eyes. She defied life and cheated death several times, proving that the mind and will can conquer what the body sometimes can't.
Frida Kahlo loved and hated, understood and judged. A controversial figure that emerged from a universe of innate talent. Frida Khalo, who gave birth, not to a physical child, but to a generation of women who now know, they do not have to conform to society's role over them. Diva, symbol, and icon.