Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a little too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes. For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907, in her parents’ home, La Casa Azul, in Coyoacán.Kahlo contracted polio at age six, which left her right leg thinner than the left; she disguised this later in life by wearing long skirts or trousers. It has been conjectured that she was born with spina bifida, a congenital condition that could have affected both spinal and leg development.
On September 17, 1925, when Kahlo was 18 years old, she was riding in a bus that collided with a trolley car. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. In addition, an iron handrail pierced her abdomen, compromising her reproductive capacity. The accident left her in a great deal of pain, and she spent three months recovering in a full body cast. She had relapses of extreme pain for the remainder of her life.
After her accident, Kahlo abandoned the study of medicine and began to paint, to occupy herself during her three-month immobilization. Her mother had a special easel made so she could paint in bed, and her father lent her his box of oil paints and some brushes. Self-portraits were a dominant motif then.
Kahlo created at least 140 paintings, along with dozens of drawings and studies. Of her paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds.
In 1929 Kahlo married the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He encouraged her artistic endeavors and had a great influence on Kahlo’s painting style. The bisexual Kahlo had affairs with both men and women. For her part, Kahlo was furious when she learned that Rivera had an affair with her younger sister, Cristina. The couple divorced in November 1939, but remarried in December 1940. Their second marriage was as troubled as the first.
Kahlo died on July 13, 1954, soon after turning 47. In his autobiography, Diego Rivera wrote that the day Kahlo died was the most tragic day of his life, and that, too late, he had realized that the most wonderful part of his life had been his love for her.
Although she has long been recognized as an important painter, public awareness of her work has become more widespread since the 1970s. Her “Blue” house in Coyoacán, Mexico City is a museum, donated by Diego Rivera upon his death in 1957.
“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”
I don’t remember when I first encountered a Frida Kahlo painting, but it feels like I have always loved her work. I love that she paints herself, and I love that I can feel her pain when I look at her work. At some point I did research who she was. I read her incredible story and I watched the movie made about her life too. I became obsessed and I now count her amoung my greatest heros and influences.
I once described her to someone who had never heard of her, telling him what I loved about her, and his response was: “so you love her for her pain?”. At first, I became defensive. I didn’t love her for her pain, did I? When I thought about it I had to admit I did, but I also realized that it was only half of the story.
I loved her pain, which became an intrinsic part of who she was, but I also loved her for her ability to translate it into something that could be grasped by those around her and for future generations. She learned to paint her pain so that the world could see that she was hurt, and she learned to paint her overcoming of it too. She painted who she was and when we look at her work we can see inside her and inside of all of us.
Frida Kahlo is all of us. She used her pain as a chance to learn a skill, to explore who she was, and to paint hers, and every human’s, condition.
I’m the kind of person who you might call pessimistic at first. I see suffering every where I go. I believe pain and suffering are a few of the only conditions every human shares with every other, regardless of our position in this world. The ability to see past that pain is something every human is capable of as well.
Pain and suffering give each of us a chance to contemplate our choices, our responsibilities, and our reasons for doing everything we do. Pain and suffering give us a chance to take those same questions and apply them to society and all people. Pain and suffering are what help us grow and eventually turn into hope, joy, and accomplishment.
I want to be like Kahlo. I want to take my pain and transform it into something that tells a truth about all of humanity.
I want to tell so beautiful a truth that it transcends race, class, culture, and time.
Happy Birthday Friday Kahlo.
You were such a lovely woman and a great influence on the kind of woman I would like to be one day. I wish I could have known you.
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