Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kahlo, Frida

Self portrait with Braid
oil on masonite
51 x 38.7 cm (20 x 15.25 in.)
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, Mexico City, Mexico

"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best." "My painting carries with it the message of pain." (Frida)

Shortly after the divorce from acclaimed Mexican artist Diego Rivera in 1939, Frida cut off her long hair and rejected her femininity to express the pain she felt over the separation. This self portrait was painted shortly after their remarriage in Dec. 1940 and in it, hair again becomes the vehicle through which she expresses her feelings about their marital reconciliation. The strands of hair that had previously been cut off have been gathered up again and plaited into a new braid which, in its shape of an endless loop, might be seen as a symbol of the eternal circle of time. This idea is reinforced by the leaves entwined around the naked upper body of Frida. (MoMa)

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907 - 1954) 's life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home known as the Blue House. The iconic Mexican painter's biography is riddled with sadness. At the age of six, she developed polio, leaving her right leg thinner than the left, which she disguised by wearing long, colorful skirts. Following a traffic accident in her teenage years, Frida went on to suffer further health problems until her death in 1954. Her traffic accident was life changing. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, a dislocated shoulder and other complications which affected her reproductive ability. During three months recovering in a full body cast, Frida studied the natural sciences, with the eventual aim of becoming a medical doctor... and began to paint, encouraged by her mother. Frida later stated, "I was born a bitch. I was born a painter". She channeled her energy and emotion into her artworks and her many pets - Amazon parrots, spider monkeys, Aztecs dogs, hens, sparrows and a fawn - which lived at her home.

Mexican culture and Amerindian cultural tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as Naïve art or folk art. Her work has also been described as "surrealist", and in 1938 André Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Frida's art as a "ribbon around a bomb".

Frida's health deteriorated steadily during the 1950s. She went through a series of operations on her spine, all to no avail. Eventually, she was confined to a wheel chair, then permanently consigned to bed. She was forced to take painkillers almost constantly, and the technical execution of her work deteriorated visibly. In the summer of 1954, she contracted pneumonia and died soon after turning 47, in the Blue House, the place where she had been born. A few days before her death she wrote in her diary, "I hope the exit is joyful ... and I hope never to return ... Frida".

In accordance with Frida's wishes, her body was cremated. The urn was placed in the Blue House, which was converted into a gallery of her work.
"I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration."
Frida produced only about 200 paintings - primarily still life and portrait of herself, family and friends.