In the last three years, I’ve probably visited Casa Azul, where Frida Kahlo was born and lived with Diego Rivera, over ten times. I come because I organize the art history study tour, Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
On this latest visit last Friday with a group from Australia and New Zealand, I served as a consultant for their leader who wanted a one-day quick immersion into Frida’s life for her group.
I wondered: How do I continue to take photos of the same iconographic details of Frida and Diego’s life? The paint brushes. The photographs. The furniture. The folk art collection.
The pre-Hispanic ceramics and lava rock sculpture. The clothing. The frog urn that contains her ashes. The paintings she created out of pain. Reverence. Disappointment. Courage. Commitment to love and family. Passion.
Go to the details, I told myself. Captures the parts, not the whole. Focus on the brush strokes. The lace. The color. The shadows and reflections. The images of the men and women she loved.
Go to the details. Find the ribbons. Find the ribs of the plant leaves. The shape of flowers. The accoutrements of the corsets and built-up shoes to hide her deformities. The textures and reflections.
She put such a strong, uplifting face to the world despite her injuries — physical and emotional.
This trip to Casa Azul was different for me and I used the experience to examine the infinite, small parts of life that we often scan over to take in the big picture.
If you want to join me in Mexico City, Thursday, July 29, for a July 30 morning start to a three-day immersion into the murals, paintings and lives of Friday and Diego, there is a space for you. It’s so easy to fly in and out!
Why is Frida Kahlo an icon? Perhaps you would like to help me answer this question.
What does she represent for women who aspire to be independent, strong, feminine and vulnerable?
She hid her misshapen body beneath glorious hand-woven and embroidered dresses, put her best foot and face forward. Persevered and thrived.
Today, she is more famous, more revered than Diego Rivera because she exposed herself and revealed the internal, damaged self.
Andre Breton called her Mexico’s surrealist painter. She is more than that. Surrealism conjures up Salvador Dali and the distortions he saw in life. Frida reflected on her own distortions and created beauty from them.
Would Frida have become the painter she did without having suffered the trolley car accident that sent a metal spear through her uterus?
Sometimes courage requires that we each put one foot in front of the other to move forward, despite set-backs. We love Frida Kahlo because through her story she teaches us that life requires risk, innovation, and that being afraid is part of our existence.
When Frida died, Diego Rivera wanted to establish a museum to honor her. She was not yet recognized. He convinced his friend, Dolores Olmedo, to invest in purchasing Frida’s paintings and Casa Azul.
But, he made her promise not to open the green closet door, where clothing, diaries and photos remained secreted for fifty years.
In 2006, the closet was opened and art history was rewritten.