Sunday, May 28, 2017

Heroine of the Weekend: Frida Kahlo

One of the things I missed about doing this blog was finding Heroines to feature every weekend--women in history both famous and not-so-famous (and sometimes not even very heroic!), but who I found to be interesting.  Today I'm taking a look at the artist Frida Kahlo, because I just happened to go to an exhibit last week centered around her life.  ("Mirror, Mirror: Photographs of Frida Kahlo" at the Spanish Colonial Arts Museum).  I've always been fascinated by her (as so many people are!) and loved getting a closer look at her life and style.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderon in Coyocoan, Mexico City, to a Mexican mother and German photographer father, and had 3 sisters, growing up in the Casa Azul (now a museum, and on my bucket list).  At age 6, she was stricken with polio, bedridden for months and emerging with a pronounced limp.  Her father encouraged her to get into sports, and she enrolled in 1922 at the National Preparatory School (one of the few female students), and took art classes.  But her new life didn't last long.  On September 17, 1925, she was horribly injured in a trolley crash, spending months in the hospital and then facing a lifetime of surgeries and constant pain.  But she took that pain, that suffering, and used it in an art never seen before, one that was deeply personal, graphic, and often surreal.  She also became radical in her politics, joining the Mexican Communist Party.

In 1928, she met the famous mural painter Diego Rivera, and married him the next year.  They spent much time on the move for his work, living in California, New York City, and Detroit for many years.  Affairs by both partners (including one by Rivera with Frida's sister), as well as several miscarriages and professional complications (Rivera was famously fired from a mural project at Rockefeller Center for sneaking in a portrait of Lenin to the image).  They divorced in 1939, Kahlo then moving for a time to Paris, but remarried the next year and stayed together for the rest of Kahlo's life, though living in separate but conjoined houses/studios.

The 1950s were a time of increasingly bad health, and Kahlo became almost completely bedridden, especially after a leg amputation (though she had an easel installed above her bed and continued working!).  In 1953, she had her first solo exhibit in Mexico, and was taken to the opening party by ambulance, where she drank and partied from a specially installed bed.  She died July 13, 1954 at age 47, at Casa Azul.  In 2002, a movie of her life was made with Salma Hayak nominated as an Oscar for her main role.

I've always been in awe of her strength, her uniqueness, her great talent, her fearlessness, and her ability to know and be true to herself.  She's really a Heroine.

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