The anniversary of Frida Kahlo’s birthday (July 6, 1907) passed a couple of weeks ago. The anniversary of her death (July 13, 1954) was last week.
I’ve found myself sending her a few loose prayers and imaginary painted tchotchkes, sitting them on the trickster altar I imagined her life to be:
All color and movement.
In the beginning.
Then, life intervened with a trolley accident that left her impaled on a pole.
It’s a wonder she survived it.
After that, she lived a somnambulant existence, painting what she could see in a mirror propped above her bed. She let her guts and marrow loose on canvas. Her agonizing physical condition – surgery after surgery; the loss of the ability to bear children – became fodder and fuel for her brush.
She smoked and wove flowers into her hair.
She had affairs with both men and women.
She loved Diego furiously and fervently. They drove eat other nuts but couldn’t bear to be parted. (They married, divorced, then remarried.)
She was an icon and an innovator.
I saw an old new clipping of her from a time Diego was painting murals in Detroit or Chicago. It was one of those stories about his little wifey, gleefully dabbling in painting at home, while he did the ‘real art’ downtown. In the article, Frida delicately holds her brush, pretending to dash something off, all while wearing her apron, ready to (I guess) whip up some tuna surprise for her hard-working man.
I am certainly not discounting Diego Rivera’s artistic work; however, Frida was no slouch, was she?
She was creating work that still slashes the viewer’s eyes when we see it: Frida’s head on a little deer punctured with arrows; Frida sitting surrounded by the haunting faces of her pet monkeys; Frida’s own birth, visceral and true.
She and Diego were her favorite subjects. Their obsessive love and affection colors all of her work.
She’s one of my idols – as a painter and a woman and a fierce, incandescent spirit.
She was strange, it’s true.
But so am I.
And as the inimitable Dr. Seuss might say (if he were here), “So are you.”
The thing is, can we wear our strangeness, our unique brand, with something akin to pride? Can we fly the freak flag over the bow of our ship, knowing our tribe will see it and respond?
Frida’s gift to me – all these decades later – is to offer me the freedom to be as weird as I want to be. No one else can live this life for me. No one can take these chances.
Why not savor our own strange blend of beauty and artistry and soul?
What in the wide world is stopping us?
© 2016 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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