Sunday, April 19, 2009

Frida Kahlo: Woman of Myth, Contradiction and Resilience

This quote by Sandra Cisneros sums up in many ways how I see Frida Kahlo's (and my, of course) life: 

I am the woman of myth and bullshit. 
(True. I authored some of it.)
I built my little house of ill repute.
Brick by brick. Labored,
loved and masoned it.
Sandra Cisneros, "Loose Woman"

I've decided that I am going to blog to my heart's content about the woman who I consider to be one of the most significant historical figures to have influenced my life. This is the second post in my Frida Kahlo series. You can read my introduction and view some samples of her artwork here

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is an unconventional woman of myth, contradiction, and resiliency. Born as Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón on June 6, 1907, Frida often claimed that she was born in 1910, the year of the Mexican Revolution. Frida was daughter to father Guillermo Kahlo, a German immigrant, and Mexican mother Matilde Calderón. Frida often claimed that her father was Jewish, although other sources have claimed that her father was Lutheran. Often stating that she was born with an uncanny artistic ability at an early age, she has also claimed to have discovered painting out of boredom as an adult when recovering from a tragic accident.

As a child and young woman Frida Kahlo was the quintessential bad-ass in many ways. She was a prankster and tomboy who loved to box and ride her bike around with a boy's knapsack when other little girls were learning how to be proper ladies. A survivor of polio at the age of six, she became accustomed to being teased and isolated from her classmates at an early age. at the age of fifteen, Frida was one of only thirty-five young women accepted to attend the prestigious National Preparatory high school. She mainly associated with young men, claiming that that she was irritated by the gossip and pettiness associated with many girls. 

As a young woman, Frida often wore her hair short and dressed in masculine clothing. The following picture from 1926 shows Frida (to the left) in a suit standing with her hand in her pocket:

During her high school years, Kahlo earned a reputation for being a promiscuous young woman. In a letter written to her boyfriend she wrote, "Although I have said I love you to many, and I have had dates with and kissed others, underneath it all I never loved anyone but you". In another letter to her boyfriend she wrote:
I went around with Agustina Reyna all day, according to what she says, she no longer wants to be with me much, because you told her that she was the same or worse than me, and that is a great disparagement for her, and I agree with her, since I am beginning to realize that Mr. Olmedo was telling the truth when he said that I am not worth a cent,  that is to say for all those who once called themselves my friends, because to myself, naturally I am worth much more than a cent because I like myself the way that I am. 

The fact is that no one wants to be my friend because I have lost my reputation, something that I cannot remedy. I will have to be friends with those who like me just the way that I am...

...even if to you I am worth nothing, to myself I am worth more than many other girls...

Considering that she was writing this to a man in 1925, I'd have to say that she was one little bad-ass in my eyes. I'm always a sucker for women who make no apologies for their sexuality and/or promiscuity.

Coming Soon:
  • The tragic accident that debilitated her for the rest of her life
  • Her unconventional and open marriage to artist Diego Rivera
  • Torrid love affairs with men and women
  • Contradictions of masculinity and femininity, independence and vulnerability, beauty and pain
  • More about the myth and bullshit that she and others created regarding her life


Natasha Sazonova said...

Thanks for blogging about Frida. She's one of the most influential people in my life as well.

Miss Unconventional, Latina Fatale said...

She is absolutely AMAZING!