The owner of the most recognisable unibrow in history. Everyone knows Frida Kahlo; at least they know her aesthetic, but few of us knew anything about the woman.
It is a strange thing to get to know someone on a more intimate level, even if it is through a documentary. To go beyond the pretty art and get to know their thoughts and lives. I cannot listen to Nina Simone the same way I did before watching What Happened, Miss Simone?
The documentary I watched is called The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo. Before watching it, I knew little about Frida Kahlo. I barely knew that she was a painter. I could not recognise her art. I did not know that she was/is famed for her self portraits. I did not know of her tempestuous relationship with the great love of her life: Diego Rivera. I did not know of how painful her life was.
Frida was born to a German father and a Mexican mother. She grew up in the age of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) and was shaped by the horrors and struggles of the time. At times, she and her sister had to be hidden in a walnut chest while her mother cooked for the bandits. When she was young, she contracted polio and was bedridden for a while. In 1925, at 18 years old, she was in a terrible accident. She was in a wooden bus with her husband at the time, Alejandro, when a trolley car collided with it. To paraphrase Alejandro, the trolley kept pushing the bus, running over a lot of people, until the bus burst into many pieces. Frida, impaled by an iron handrail, lay in the street. The handrail had entered her on one side and come out on the other. Her clothes were removed by the collision, and a packet of gold powder had been spilled across her bleeding body. Her entire body was fractured: her spine and pelvis in three places, her leg in eleven. This accident would go on to plague her life causing her untold pain, until her body finally gave up in 1954. Possibly the worst consequence of the accident was that it affected her reproductive capability and left her unable to bear children.
Frida started to paint seriously during her recovery, and she painted herself and her thoughts. Her paintings were so poignant, and this one painted after a miscarriage is my favourite one. It needs no explanation.
It is easy to idolise a person without giving much thought to the agony the person faced in life. I am awed by the fact that she managed to achieve so much while under such physical discomfort.
My second favourite painting.
Frida with Diego Rivera. He was almost 20 years older than her, and was notoriously unfaithful. He even had an affair with her sister. Still they loved each other deeply, divorcing briefly and remarrying.
When her body started to fail, and she couldn’t walk anymore.
At her funeral.
I am beginning to think that art is synonymous with pain. A lot of the greatest creative minds have endured great sorrow in their lives. I guess all that genius has to be sourced from somewhere, and pain is a more effective driver than happiness.
One thing I wonder is if the subjects of these documentaries would have consented to their diaries being read out to the public. It is quite powerful getting into their heads, and I do appreciate that. Still, I wonder if they would be okay with it.It is such a violation of privacy.
I tried my hardest to find a video of her talking but I couldn’t. I so badly want to hear her voice. The voice of the woman who spoke as Frida in the documentary bothered me at first, but then I grew to love it, and now associate that voice with Frida. Although I couldn’t find a video of her speaking, this one here shows her moving around and interacting with Diego. It is obvious that she adored him.
I have never wanted to paint as much as I did/do after watching the documentary. Alas, I have no painting talent.
Shortly before her death, she wrote the following in her diary:
“I hope the exit is joyful
and I hope never to return