100 years ago, Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, as her name appears on her birth certificate, was born in July 1907 in her parents’ house, known as La Casa Azul (The Blue House), in Coyoacán, which at the time was a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City. We know her better as Frida Kahlo, but there is not much evidence that we really know her.
I do not pretend to know much more about Frida Kahlo than any of you do, but I sure would have liked to know her during her life time. She must have been a fascinating woman.
I have seen some of her paintings in a number of exhibitions and museums. Earlier this week, I had the good fortune to see an exhibition composed of some 60 photographs of her. Of course, I’ve seen the bio-pic Frida, played and produced by Salma Hayek, who, I must say, totally convinced me as to the spirit of Frida Kahlo and to the explosiveness of the time, the Twenties and Thirties, in post-revolutionary Mexico.
On the afternoon of 17 September, 1925, Frida and her friend Alex were involved in a severe accident of a bus collision with a tram, and Frida was very severely injured. A metal rod had made a very deep abdominal wound, her third and fourth lumbar vertebrae were fractured, and her uterus was pierced. Frida ended up trapped in a body cast for months. The accident left her in a great deal of pain. She recovered ever so slowly. She took up painting to occupy her time during her temporary state of immobilization. Before the accident, Frida Kahlo had begun to study medicine; now she soon embarked on a full-time painting career.
As a young artist, Frida Kahlo approached the famous Mexican muralist painter, Diego Rivera, whom she had previously admired, and asked him for his advice on pursuing art as a career. He immediately recognized her talent and her unique expression as truly special and uniquely Mexican. He encouraged her development as an artist, and began an intimate relationship with her. They were married in 1929, much to the disapproval of Frida’s mother, a Mexican lady of indigenous roots. Frida’s father, by the way, had been a German emigrant of Hungarian descent.
If you are into art, if you admire creative women, if you like to know more about the period in which Mexico was a thriving society, if you appreciate beauty that is not cast in the superficial terms of Hollywood and if you enjoy a spellbinding performance by an outstanding Latina actress, let me suggest you get a DVD out of your local video hire shop. Even if your Spanish is not good enough to listen to some of the original soundtrack, Frida Kahlo’s story is absorbing enough in English, just the same, or any language of your choice.
The movie is called Frida, here in Europe. In the USA and Canada, it is called Frida Kahlo. It was filmed and produced in 2002; it was released in 2003.
For those of you living in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, there will be a fantastic exhibition of paintings by Frida Kahlo touring from the Walker Art Center (October 2007) to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (February 2008), to culminate at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (June 2008). A core of that forthcoming exhibition was shown at the Tate Modern Museum in London, UK, a year ago or so.
A must-see, in my books.