Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907. She lived during the Mexican Revolution, in Coyocan, Mexico. She suffered polio as a child at the age of six. She was teased and taunted as a child because her afflicted leg had atrophy and she was noticeably thinner and weak. When she was 15 years old, Frida moved to Mexico City to enter a National Preparatory School for the very elite.
It was uncommon for women to pursue higher education in those days. Frida’s family was able to afford her acceptance to this National Preparatory School. She intended to study medicine, which was also a bold decision for a young woman in Mexico at that time. Frida was considered by many to be a rebel with an “I don’t care what anyone thinks” defiant spirit. Her closest friends were male students at the school who considered themselves to be an enlightened cadre of intellectuals, philosophers and creative writers.
At 18, Frida was involved in a near fatal bus accident in which her pelvis was pierced by the bus handrail. She was unable to bear children. She suffered multiple fractures of her vertebrae, clavicle and right leg. This accident required that she spend long periods of time in convalescence and therapy to regain the use of her legs. She had to undergo approximately 30 operations in the years that followed. She spent long periods of time confined to her wheelchair or bed.
Frida was a self-taught artist. She began painting to pass the time during her long periods of convalescence. Her life and her artwork, which is primarily self-portraits, frequently depict her both physical and emotional pain. In some paintings, she illustrates herself bleeding, injured, wounded or victimized. She painted symbols of death around herself. She sometimes looks hopelessly lost in the wilderness.
When Frida was 21, she asked Diego Rivera, a famous Mexican muralist, to critique her art. He encouraged her to develop her skills. A year later, in 1929, young Frida Kahlo married Diego Rivera. They often socialized with progressive intellectuals and wealthy citizens of many counties, including Leon Trotsky. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were for a time members of the Communist Party. They traveled abroad to Europe and also visited the United States when Diego was commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller and Edsel Ford to paint murals in New York and Detroit.
Frida experienced depression in the United States (“Gringolandia” was her name for the US) and yearned to return to Mexico. She did not dress like the wealthy women in the United States. She preferred to wear regional native dresses from Mexico. She even dared to wear trousers in public and smoke cigarettes at a time when that was social taboo. Frida had a soulful duality. She was known publicly as a rebel, a bold, daring nonconformist who openly challenged the status quo of her gender. Privately and through her paintings we see another side of Frida: the woman, scorned, wounded in body and heart. Frida the victim, “the wounded deer,” is the opposite side of her personality. Art critics once criticized Frida Kahlo’s art as outrageous with a hyper-realism.
Frida, a Miramax film presented in association with Margaret Rose Perenchio Ventana Rosa, is currently available on DAD. The soundtrack and motion picture are dedicated to keeping the Frida story alive. The motion picture was nominated for six 2002 Academy Awards, including Salma Hayek for Best Actress. Alfred Molina plays Diego Rivera. Antonio Banderas, Ashley Judd, Edward Norton, Valeria Golina, Mia Maestro and Geoffrey Rush are also featured in the film. The motion picture was produced by Sarah Green and Salma Hayek. It was directed by Julie Taymor. Production designer Felipe Fernandez and costume designer Julie Weiss captured the historical scenes, setting and style of the time. The motion picture was based on the book by Hayden Herrera. The screenplay was a collaborative effort of the talents of Clancy Sigal, Diane Lake, Gregory Nava and Anna Thomas. The official companion book, Frida: Bringing Frida Kahlo’s Life and Art to Film is available from Newmarket Press.
“Frida, Music from the Motion Picture” was the winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score by Elliot Goldenthal.Chavela Vargas was selected to sing “La Llorona” live on screen for the motion picture and also “Paloma Negra.” “La Llorona,” one of Frida’s most beloved songs is sung again in the movie in a mariachi version by Lila Downs. Lila Downs sings two other songs on camera: “Alcoba Azul,”
a tango, and “La Borrachita,” which means “my little drunken lady.” Salma Hayek sang one of Diego Rivera’s favorite songs entitled “La Bruja.” The song “Burn It Blue” (with lyrics written by Julie Taymor) was performed as a duet by Lila Downs and Caetano Veloso of Brazil. The song is sung in both English and Spanish. The lyrics express the romance that consumed Frida until her death.
Frida’s troubled, restless, spirit yearned for freedom from human suffering. Her long time friend, Costa Rican singer Chavela Vargas believes that Frida is “alive in a different cosmic dimension.” People continue to find Frida Kahlo fascinating. Her life was a dichotomy, the struggle between pain and perseverance. Frida Kahlo is both fearful and fearless. The fascination with Frida Kahlo continues today.
Frida the motion picture has renewed an appreciation for Mexican culture. Diego Rivera, her husband donated Frida’s childhood home la Casa Azul as a museum after her death. Her ashes are preserved in a Pre-Columbian urn. It is in Coyocan, Mexico. This museum attracts tourists from many countries who come to see Frida’s art. Some of Diego Rivera’s art is also housed there. The Blue House was opened as a museum on July 12, 1958. It contains memorabilia: her diary, dresses, jewelry and personal artifacts. In essence, it’s a shrine to Frida.
Life is often painful and unjust. Frida Kahlo serves as a reminder to us all that humanity has the capacity to endure and triumph over many aspects of pain, suffering and tribulation. We must remember that there exists a cosmic dimension. The illogical events and circumstances of life are a part of this world. The reasons for the human sorrow may only be understood from a cosmic or spiritual dimension. Frida has arrived, as we all hope to arrive one day. “Mujer tan cansada, abre tus alas y vuele libre mientres canta la golindrina.” (“Woman so weary, spread your wings. Fly as free as the swallows sing!”).
My Parents, My Grandparents And I, 1938. Self-Portrait With Monkey 1943. Photo By Nickolas Murray 1938-’39. Self-Portrait Dedicated To Dr Elosser, 1940. Frida and Diego Rivera, 1931. Double portrait was given to Albert Bender in gratitude for arranging a Visa to the US for Diego Rivera. The Two Fridas, 1939. Shortly after her divorce from Diego, Frida completed this self-portrait. In this piece she has two different personalities. She is both European and Tehuana. The dejected European part of Frida is in danger of bleeding to death.