Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kahlo, Frida

Self Portrait, Thinking about death
oil on canvas mounted on masonite
44.5 x 37 cm
Collection of Dolores Olmedo, 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)

Frida Kahlo drew on many different types of funerary imagery in her paintings, including Aztec art and Mexican folk traditions. Later, she extended her range of sources to include Eastern religions. The self-portrait Thinking of Death, 1943, deals explicitly with Kahlo’s preoccupation with mortality and the fragility of her body - the legacy of polio in childhood and a near-fatal bus accident. In this work, the third eye chakra in the center of the forehead, which denotes wisdom or spiritual truth according to Indian Yogic beliefs, has been supplanted with a death’s head. Death is symbolized by the skull and crossbones that show on her forehead. Also, the thorny branches in the background may represent rebirth after death. Frida died on July 13, 1954.

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 Naive art or folk art. Her work has also been described as "surrealist", and in 1938 Andre 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.