As I was saying the other day, I nearly got kicked out of the High Museum because I was fawning over Frida and was reluctant to leave when it was time for the museum to close.
I can't remember how/where/when I first learned about Frida Kahlo and her art, so I have no idea which fascinated me first--her life story or her work. That seems fitting, in a way, because the two are really inextricably linked. Frida took up painting as a young woman while she was in bed recovering from serious injuries she suffered in a bus accident. Even before that, she had leg problems because of childhood polio, which made one leg smaller than the other. Self-conscious about the way her legs looked, she adopted her signature style of wearing full, colorful skirts. Throughout her life, she was plagued by physical pain, and that pain was a frequent subject for her paintings, especially her self-portraits.
Although I'm obviously not an iconic artist, and her ailments far surpass anything I've had to deal with, I relate to Frida on some level and find inspiration in her life and work. She used creativity as a way to deal with her physical limitations. When I was a kid, having frequent fractures because of my brittle bone condition, I had to spend a lot of time in bed as well. Or if not in bed, at least being fairly immobile. Those times when I had to "take it easy" fueled my ability to entertain myself, as well as my interest in pursuits like reading, writing, and making things with my hands. So basically, just about everything that makes me, me. (Not to mention my love of Frida-like skirts--most literally interpreted here.)
The Broken Column, photo via learner.org
This has always been one of my favorite Frida paintings, and at the High exhibit I finally got to see it in person. Spending so much time looking at this portrait was one of the main reasons the museum was about to close around me, and I won't lie, seeing this up close made me cry. In this painting, Frida is broken but beautiful, struggling but strong. Her gaze looks directly at the viewer, sad but also defiant, and says, "This is me." Frida had a hard life, but she created beauty from it. Through the pain, she approached her life and art with colorful intensity.
photo via milenio.com
One of my travel dreams is to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum (aka Casa Azul) in Mexico City. The museum is housed in the vibrant home where she lived and worked, and it displays, among other things, the wheelchair where she sometimes sat to paint, as well as her bed with mirrored canopy that she used for painting self-portraits while bed-ridden. Someday! Maybe I can get thrown out of that museum, too!