Friday, 22 May 2015

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo by Guillermo Kahlo, Oct. 16, 1932

Blog 20

As already mentioned in last week's blog when I wrote about female artists, I will take this and next week to write about the two female artists I admire the most. The first one is Frida Kahlo. I became aware of the artist when the movie “Frida” came out in 2002 with Salma Hayek playing Frida.

Frida Kahlo de Rivera, was born as Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón on July 6, 1907. She was born in her parents' house known as La Casa Azul (The Blue House), in Coyoacán, a small town outside Mexico City. She wanted to become a doctor and was one of only thirty-five girls enrolled in the “Escuela Nacional Preparatoria”, one of Mexico's premier schools.

Frida was already disabled as a result of polio which she contracted at the age of six. However, the accident of September 1925 changed her life forever. She was riding in a bus that collided with a trolley car, and suffered serious injuries that created lifelong health problems and continuous pain. During the following years, she had to endure more than 30 operations.

Frida was confined to her bed in a full body cast for three months. During this time she abandoned the study of medicine and began to paint, encouraged by her parents. She started to do self-portraits as she spent a lot of time by herself. Of all of her paintings, 55 are self-portraits.

Frida was a big admirer of painter Diego Rivera's work and asked him to review four of her paintings. His positive response and support encouraged her to pursue a career as an artist. He became her mentor and husband. Frida's use of intense, vibrant colours as well as many symbols was influenced by the Mexican folk art.

During her lifetime, Frida created about 200 paintings, drawings and sketches which were often an expression of her experiences in life, her physical and emotional pain but also her resilience and strength, and not to forget her stormy relationship with Diego. Their love was stronger than their affairs, the pressures of careers, their divorce, remarriage, Frida's bad health and her inability to have children.

Frida died on July 13, 1954. Although the official cause of death was pulmonary embolism, there have been suspicions that she committed suicide. The urn with her ashes is on display in her former home, La Casa Azul , which became a museum in 1958. It houses many of her works as well as numerous mementos and artifacts from her personal life.

Aside from the 1939 acquisition of “The Frame” by the Louvre, her work was not well-known. Frida was mostly remembered only as Diego Rivera's wife. This changed in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, with the beginning of Neomexicanismo. Frida gained recognition through exhibitions all over Europe and the United States. Her life has been commemorated in musicals, operas, novels, movies, postage stamps and banknotes.

From October 20, 2012 to January 20, 2013 the exhibition ‘Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting’ was displayed at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, a dual retrospective of Frida's and Diego's art. I was lucky enough to be able to see it. Even though my taste in art is very different from Frida's style, I can relate to the message of her artworks. I felt the energy of her art, her struggle but also her strength. Despite all the pain, both physical and emotional, she lived life to the fullest. She went for what she believed in and never gave up. Is this not what we are all hoping for? Whenever I struggle in my life, and feel knocked out by circumstances beyond my control, I think of people like Frida and get up again. I would like to hear your opinion. Do you like her paintings? Does her biography fascinate you?

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