Frida Kahlo

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Frida Kahlo (1907-54), whose body and biography were her chief subjects, mythologized them into a revealing life epic. Her paintings tell stories-intimate, engaging, terri­fying, and tragic ones. When she abandoned hope in her daily life, Kahlo embedded her despair within paintings, which, by virtue of their very existence, act as the artist's envoys in search of salvation, or something like it.

At times archaizing and romantic, at times brutally immediate, Kahlo's subjects impose stasis on history, freezing together the ancient past with living memories. It is a practice as much shamanic as artistic, one related to the concept of Aztec duality and addressed in other terms as well. Two immediate similarities to the Velazquez painting are the queen's formalized, static pose and the massive, tie-back draperies. The more critical formal and symbolic element in both paintings is a clock, an unmistakable allusion to the concept of time. In each case the clock is located to the sitter's left and behind her. The Velazquez gold clock, as Baddeley and Fraser point out, is a "rare, expensive and ornate" object.4 It would have been a status symbol in 17th-century Spain, or perhaps an updated, secularized reference to the transience of life formerly suggested by an hourglass in moralizing vanitas paintings. In any case, the hour is not visible; seemingly, Velazquez used the clock to make an oblique reference to his own modernity, to timeliness in a painting whose immobility places it otherwise entirely outside time. Kahlo's use of the clock seems to place Time Flies specifically within time. Hers is a cheap, modern alarm clock, strictly utilitarian, with large black hands and numerals declaring that it is 2:52, perhaps an oblique reference to the date of the Velazquez painting, 1652. In Time Flies the clock rests on a carved wooden column, whose spiral shaft rises exactly the length of Kahlo's own spinal column,further reinforcing the interpretation of the clock and its...
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