Sometimes we let the little things get to us. We just can't help it. Our usual calm and serene self gets bent out of shape over something insignificant. Something as simple as a late subway train or the store selling out of iced coffee can be enough to ruin my day. It's times like these that I need to hear inspirational tales that help me learn how to appreciate life. The following story is about a very special woman who overcame tremendous obstacles to become one of the greatest woman painters of our time.
Frida Kahlo was born in a small town outside of Mexico City on July 6, 1907; her parents were Jewish immigrants. Her father, a painter, adored her, but resented her mother. Frida had three sisters and her status as daddy's special girl set her apart from the others. But, it was her affliction with polio in 1913 that forever marked her as different. She eventually healed, but was left with a withered right leg which she covered with long skirts or pants. It was during her recuperation that her father gave her her first paints.
In 1922, Frida became one of 35 women from a student body of 2,000 to be admitted into the National Preparatory School . She wanted to study medicine, but upon arriving, she met political activists, artists, and others who dared to dream and question. Frida chopped off her hair and started wearing overalls. She later joined a revolutionary gang.
On September 17, 1925, Frida was riding on a bus when it crashed into a trolley car. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, and a crushed, dislocated right foot. The bus handrail had punctured her abdomen, piercing her cervix, permanently damaging her reproductive organs. It was a long, painful, grueling recovery process, but eventually she regained the ability to walk, but was to suffer from bouts of extreme pain for the rest of her life. She was to undergo about 30 surgeries throughout her life as a result of the accident.
What kept her going throughout was her painting, and although she had wanted a career in medicine, she now turned her attention to art. Drawing on her own personal experiences, her works were shocking in their portrayal of pain and the harsh lives of women. In fact, her preoccupation with female themes made her something of a feminist cult figure in the last decades of the 20th century. Eventually her paintings drew the attention of the artist, Diego Rivera whom she married and later divorced.
"I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy as long as I can paint."--Frida Kahlo
In the 1950's, her physical status reached a crisis, and she was hospitalized for a year, but her health continued to deteriorate. Her right leg had to be amputated to the knee due to gangrene, and she suffered from bouts of bronchopneumonia. Frida's last still life was called "Viva la Vida", a metaphorical depiction of watermelons. A few days before she died, she wrote the following in her journal "I hope the exit is joyful--I hope not to return".--Frida. She died on July 13, 1954. The official cause of death was listed as pulmonary embolism, but most believe she probably committed suicide. An autopsy was not performed. Her ashes were placed in a pre-Columbian urn and placed on display at her former home which has been turned into a museum featuring many of her works.
The following is my favorite Frida painting.
Here is another: