Frida Kahlo: Artistic Heroine and Revolutionary Woman

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Frida Kahlo: Artistic Heroine and Revolutionary Woman

Much has been written to document the life and works of Frida Kahlo, and with good reason. Born during the years of before the Mexican Revolution, Frida Kahlo was the “poster child” for personal pain and tragedy. Her life included a series of illnesses and misfortunes that led to the personality and reflection of the woman in her artwork. Her marriage to Diego Rivera, a prominent Mexican muralist, was one of the “great tragedies” of her life, but also contributed to defining herself as an independent woman who defied all the stereotypes of women as artists that existed. The other tradegy included a very serious bus accident that left her permanently scared and lame. Her paintings reflect the courage of a physically and emotionally broken woman and serve as a model of inspiration for young women still today. Her image Henry Ford Hospital painted in 1933 is one of the best examples of traditional and iconic imagery used to portray her female suffering and surrealist duality of connecting inner and outer sentiments. In studying this work, her diary, and personal correspondences, the woman and the artist soar above pain and suffering and enlighten our status as women.

The accident that changed Frida’s life occurred in 1925, on a bus traveling back towards Coyoacàn, her town on the outskirts of Mexico City, when it collided with a streetcar. Frida was found, covered in blood and gold dust that had exploded from an artists parcel. None of the doctors expected her to live, as she suffered from three fractured lower vertebrae, fractures of the pelvis, cervical vertebrae, and right foot, eleven breaks in her right leg, dislocated left shoulder, and broken ribs, not to mention that she was impaled by a metal rod that entered through her left hip and out through her genitals. She claimed, “[That’s when] I lost my virginity”.[1] The last of these injuries was the most severe, as it prevented her from bearing children, a consequence that she would never get over. The most serious and restrictive injury though, was that of her spine and vertebrae. “Frida Kahlo, as no other artist of our tortured century, translated pain into art”. In total, she overcame thirty-two operations, one amputation, three miscarriages, and twenty-nine years of physical pain. [2]

So how was she so successful in conveying this unyielding pain? In her diary, in the process of defining her view of the revolution, she equates it with pain, and thus defines its role in her art. She claims, “Revolution is the harmony of form and color and everything exists, and moves, under only one law = life = Nobody is separate from anybody else- Nobody fights for himself. Everything is all and one Anguish and pain- pleasure and death are no more than a process for existence xxxx the revolutionary struggle xxxxx in this process is a doorway open to intelligence.”[3] Revolution as she explains begins to take on the power of a religious belief system, and reveals her reliance of this process to explain her own existential loneliness. Frida was very afraid of being left behind because of her handicap, and talked about it often. “I am afraid to lose those I love, I don’t want anyone to leave, I want to be surrounded…I exist in the reflected light of others”.[4] In many of the letters that she writes to her friends, she ends them with sentiments ranging from asking forgiveness, to “don’t forget me”, and even sometimes “you have to write soon so I do not become a sad and unpleasant child”.[5] Her diary entries and letters to various friends, lovers, and family members reflect the desperation and sadness that Frida felt daily. Although she was in tremendous pain the majority of her life, she never ceased to challenge herself and persue the things she loved. Her diary is full of emotional outbursts and statements of passion and confusion. Although never intended to be seen publicly, this diary helps us to see the person...
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