Friday, April 18, 2008

Frida Kahlo from the eyes of a Jewelry Artist, Physical Therapist and Rheumatoid

My thoughts after viewing the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Philadelphia Art Museum today:

Although Frida bared all in her paintings, one is left with the feeling that she would only allow you to see those parts of her she wishes you to see. There are parts of her kept hidden. She will bare her breasts but never let you see the wasting of her right leg and foot. She allows you to see her innermost secrets, struggles in her relationships, and physical pain but still reserves the deepest part of her. Her sexuality is put on display because that is not what makes her vulnerable. She paints herself crying, unibrowed and mustachioed, but that is not what makes her vulnerable. What makes her most vulnerable is that which is beyond her control. Never once is a visual image of her legs revealed. Always directing attention upward, her hair ornately braided and coiffed. Ears and neck adorned in jewelry. Hands dressed in rings on every finger. Breasts bared, nipples erect but our Frida only rarely depicted from the waist down, shrouded in layers of skirts, pants or a shroud of white. A limp out of view from prying eyes.
My answer to why she painted herself with such a prominent unibrow and mustache in some paintings has nothing to do with wanting to appear masculine. It is the simplest of feminine afflictions. It has to do with what all women see in the mirror each day. Our flaws magnified when we are sad, have pain or just feel run down. On good days we are Goddesses, on bad days, merely mortal and sometimes both in the same moment. Perhaps this is the real story of Frida’s work. Her subconscious view of herself on the day she painted, ugly or beautiful and an acceptance of herself. How what she saw in the mirror revealed her mood and level of self confidence on that day, and that day only. In all of us it waxes and wanes day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. And so, we find Frida. She is real and makes no apologies. Some days she overcomes the pain, some days she is "ugly" with it. Exaggerating her physical attributes as a barometer of her inner demons.
Frida in her paintings becomes every woman, not afraid to experiment, not afraid to reveal her feelings, not afraid to criticize, not afraid to try different things and new mediums. But she still keeps some things to herself.

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