This week I visited the Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City. I knew a little about her life but not an awful lot. Same with her art work, only the surface thoughts not the deeper meanings underneath. The painter was famous for her turbulent relationship with artist Diego Rivera and also for the amount of physical and emotional pain she suffered in her lifetime. She was described as a ribbon around a bomb and was unashamedly forthright both in her lifestyle and her paintings.
She was a firecracker; someone determined to be different at a difficult time. Her whole appearance, cultivated to distract from her disability created the illusion of being an icon, long before she could appropriately be described as one.
She has been described as “…one of history’s grand divas…a tequila-slamming, dirty joke-telling smoker, bi-sexual that hobbled about her bohemian barrio in lavish indigenous dress and threw festive dinner parties for the likes of Leon Trotsky, poet Pablo Neruda, Nelson Rockefeller, and her on-again, off-again husband, muralist Diego Rivera.” (taken from www.fridakahlo.com)
Walking around Casa Azul is like dipping into another world. The house is ablaze with colour and passion but I also felt a great deal of sadness in it. I felt sad that a woman like Frida was shackled (not just physically by Polio, a streetcar accident and 22 operations) but also by the fact that she loved Diego and was treated the way she was by him. He was 20 something years her senior, described himself as a toad, had two wives before her and cheated on her several times, including once with her sister. She was a powerful painter and operator in political circles, but she was utterly consumed and tortured by her love for Diego. She was just as cruel to him, having several affairs also, including one with Leon Trotsky. I felt sad that two people who supposedly loved each other so much could cause so much damage.
There’s a quote written on the wall of the house: “You might probably expect me to whine about how much I suffer living with a man like Diego. But I don’t think riverbeds suffer by allowing the river to flow…” and to me this speaks volumes. It’s almost defeatist in accepting life the way it is, accepting a man and his actions as something you can do nothing about. Maybe others will take this quote as a positive but I felt it was something that could easily have been said by any client of Woman’s Aid.
This quote I loved and to me it’s got all the power and venom of Frida:
“Leaving is not enough. You must stay gone. Train your heart like a dog. Change the locks even on the house he’s never visited. You lucky, lucky girl. You have an apartment just your size. A bathtub full of tea. A heart the size of Arizona, but not nearly so arid. Don’t wish away your cracked past, your crooked toes, your problems are papier mache puppets you made or bought because the vendor at the market was so compelling you just had to have them. You had to have him. And you did. And now you pull down the bridge between your houses, you make him call before he visits, you take a lover for granted, you take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic. Make the first bottle you consume in this place a relic. Place it on whatever altar you fashion with a knife and five cranberries. Don’t lose too much weight. Stupid girls are always trying to disappear as revenge. And you are not stupid. You loved a man with more hands than a parade of beggars, and here you stand. Heart like a four-poster bed. Heart like a canvas. Heart leaking something so strong they can smell it in the street.” (from http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/52760.Frida_Kahlo)
One of the paintings I loved so much was this one:
It is brutal and painful and I haven’t been able to get the image out of my head. It’s called The Broken Column and was painted in 1944.
Really good article on Frida: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/artsculture/frida.html?c=y&page=1