Happy Thanksgiving everyone! As the year winds down I have been thinking of the things that I got to do, the trips, the fun, the friends and family I spent time with, the goals that I have met and am very grateful that I had another year on this beautiful big blue ball. The thing that I am most grateful for is my health. So many people take good health for granted and abuse their bodies. I consider myself one of the luckiest people on the planet just by the fact that this garage, that houses my soul is in excellent condition and enables me to tool around this amazing world seeing what adventures I can experience, and all pain free! On this day of Thanksgiving, I think of a woman that was not blessed with what many of us enjoy. Frida Kahlo.
I just finished a fabulous book about the artist, called Frida’s Bed.
In this carefully honed portrait that reads like a biography, Croatian author Drakulic (Café Europa) distills Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s life into one consistent theme: pain. From her bout of polio at age six to the streetcar accident that ensured her lifelong dependence on painkillers, Kahlo was always accompanied by the specter of death. In dreamy flashbacks, Drakulic tells Frida’s story: raised by an illiterate mother and an epileptic German father who was a photographer, she was the only one of her sisters to get an education. Toughened by her accident, Frida’s boldness attracts celebrated mural artist Diego Rivera, whom she calls the Maestro. His love for her is different from his casual relationships with other women, yet also underscores the grotesqueness of her body. His philandering plagues Frida with feelings of rejection and inadequacy until her death at age 47. After Rivera’s affair with her younger sister Kity, Frida’s paintings move from hobby to burning need, a way to survive his betrayal and her own cursed physicality.
At age 22 she married 42-year-old Diego Rivera who was already an established artist, a painter of political murals, an atheist and a revolutionary communist.
They lived in two houses together. (I have had the pleasure of visiting both) La Casa Azul..
and an unusual House-Studio that is one of the most important cultural landmarks of Mexico City, both for being the place of residence and studios of two of the most important artists of the twentieth century.
Frida suffered lifelong health problems, many of which derived from a traffic accident she experienced as a teenager. On September 17, 1925, Kahlo was riding in a bus when the vehicle collided with a trolley car. Frida’s condition was so grave doctors didn’t believe they could save her. They thought she would die on the operating table. Her spinal column was broken in three places in the lumbar region. Her collarbone was broken and her third and fourth ribs. Her right leg had eleven fractures and her right foot was dislocated and crushed. Her left shoulder was out of joint, her pelvis broken in three places. The steel handrail produced a deep abdominal wound, entering through the left hip and exiting through the genitals. She convalesced for two years though she would never fully recover.
Frida lived in a body that was in constant physical pain. She endured over 30 operations and had to wear a painful corset throughout her life just to be able to sit up. Frida painted her pain.
Most of her paintings were self-portraits. She said, “I paint self-portraits because I am the person I know best. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other considerations.”
A few days before she died, Frida wrote in her diary, “I hope the exit is joyful and I hope I never return.” Frida hated her life and body when she was older, because she was in more pain than ever, and the leg that had been broken had to be amputated for it had contracted gangrene. On July 13th 1954, Frida died of what may have been a deliberate overdose in the La Casa Azul where she had been born 47 years earlier. Diego, later made a statement, saying that the day Frida died was the worst day of his life, because he realized that when he was with her he was the happiest, and that he regretted not appreciating her more while he had the chance.
Frida: “I don’t want to be buried. I have spent too much time lying down… just burn it!”