Frida Kahlo - The Woman the World Still Wants to Know
In 2015, Frida Kahlo proves to be just as magnetic and influential a figure as ever. News of two books, three museum exhibits, and one scandalous story have been announced this spring alone, and they’re all about Frida. It seems that more than fifty years after her death, the world still wants to learn more about her.
There is much about Frida that we already know; her story has been heavily chronicled over the years through biography, film, and even an autobiography (in the form of found diary entries, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait).
At just eighteen she survived a near fatal bus accident that would shape the rest of her life. She sustained injuries to her spine and pelvis that required years of painful operations and grueling recovery periods during which she would remain bedridden, often for months at a time. It was during these times that Kahlo took to painting to communicate her pain and heartbreak.
Sorrow, what so many artists capture in black and white, Frida saw in a spectrum. Her strange and colorful imaginings made Frida Kahlo the artist a household name. But Frida Kahlo the person, is what continues to draw admirers to this day. In spite of her personal tragedies, she remained a force to be reckoned with. As she once said, “I was born a bitch. I was born an artist.”
Kahlo was married (twice) to artist Diego Rivera, but her charms were not reserved for Rivera alone. Both engaged in multiple extramarital affairs; Frida, most notably, with Leon Trotsky. Of course the intimate details of such affairs remained private, until last month - when Kahlo’s secret love letters to artist Jose Baroli, were placed for sale at a controversial auction by Doyle New York. (This leading many critics to question if anything is sacred.) One of the excerpts released shows Frida at her most vulnerable; it reads:
“My Bartoli…I don’t know how to write love letters. But I wanted to tell you that my whole being opened for you. Since I fell in love with you everything is transformed and is full of beauty…. love is like an aroma, like a current, like rain. You know, my sky, you rain on me and I, like the earth, receive you.” -- Frida Kahlo, October 1946
The letters sold for $137,000.
Last month, a book was released entitled, Frida Kahlo: The Gisèle Freund Photographs. It features rare images (many of which have never been published), of Kahlo at her home, “Casa Azul,” in Mexico City during the final years of her life. In addition to over 100 photographs the book includes previously unpublished commentary by Gisèle Freund about Frida Kahlo, and texts by Kahlo’s biographer Gérard de Cortanze and art historian Lorraine Audric.
To further enhance your Frida education, be sure to check out any one of these events happening this spring:
The Detroit Institute of the Arts has opened an exhibit, “Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit,” on display from March 15 - July 12.
The New York Botanical Garden will open an exhibit, “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life,” on display from May 16 - November 14. This is to coincide with the release of the book, Frida Kahlo’s Garden.
The Throckmorton Fine Art Museum will open an exhibit, “Mirror, Mirror… Frida Kahlo Photographs,” on display from May 21 - September 12. In this exhibit, Frida Kahlo is the subject of the art… but not the artist.