“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.”
― Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo was a woman of staggering beauty. Read her back story. You’ll find her even more so: Mexican Indigenous Woman, a life lived in La Casa Azul, as a child, touched by Polio, a promising medical student, disabled by a bus accident. A woman left holding a shattered dream of becoming a physician, a family facing financial ruin, a daughter whose parents referred to her as, “a dove.”
“I paint because I need to.” To escape her pain, Frida Kahlo returned to a childhood love of art. Critics suggest she was a “surrealist,” others, a “magical realist.” ‘The Frame,’ a 1938, self portrait, made her the first Mexican Indigenous artist to be featured in the Louvre. As a teacher, she directed her students to form art from the street. As a woman, she painted in order to escape residual pain and a diminished sense of self- worth. She needed to find beauty amidst tatter.
There is much written of the relationship between Frida and Diego Rivera, their marriage, sadly described by her parents, as “a union between an elephant and a dove.” It is told Diego was wealthy and could afford to pay her on- going medical expenses. It was certain, she could not. Viewed as a liability, Frida fought to assert her worth. Themes of pain and loss surface in her art. One is rarely born with such unique vision. It is often not a choice. It is a gift to find beauty in struggle.
Pictured above is my nod to fictitious ‘Sara’: gentle soul, brave woman. Her eyes. One look tells you enough. Eye wide open. Be cautious, Sara. The mind plays tricks. The world tempts dreamers into believing ideas are worthy, that we are all worthy, of more.
The other eye appears flat and holds a look of dark resignation. Who do you think you are, Sara?
I love ‘Sara’ for all that she is: loving mother, courageous woman, and gentle dove. I love that she dreams, quits, and restarts. I love that she doubts. You’re a bomb, Sarah. I whisper, Doves are beautiful. They make me cry. Stroking her feathers, I unlock her cage, allowing the breeze to kiss her. I tell her to fly.
My mother was a painter. She painted her stories to canvas. It was a way to bring beauty to her world. Art is made by ‘real’ artists and who can afford it, anyways? It’s a frivolous way to pass time. This was once the thought. Her wings were clipped.
I’m certainly not a painter. Should I write, aspiring painter ? This isn’t completely true. I’m not aspiring to be and I don’t like the term, ‘aspiring’ anything except a ‘better human’. It’s been years since I’ve considered painting beyond a classroom. I had told myself I could not paint, convincing myself to dismiss any thought of painting. Instead, I stood in the room and studied her. I forgot to dream. I forgot to play.
I do aspire to be a better writer. A writer who doesn’t waste a reader’s time, rather an author who gently gut punches for authenticity. This is why I acquiesce and use the term ‘aspiring’ on several spots. To remind myself to keep putting thoughts down, word by word, to improve my craft. To remain humble. To dream.
I am a teacher and a woman. Some days, I have no idea. Pandemic times have pushed me to evolve, reflect, to sit with stories in progress, to read the words of others. These times, touch me, too. I see images, feel pain, worry. I hold to hope. Should I dare to dream?
We should be a bit ‘Frida’. We should dream and do. Instead, we question worth. We judge the worth of others. We should stop. If you write, you’re a writer. If you paint, be a painter. If you can’t sing, hum. Do it because you need to.
The finest writers and artists, especially those who have suffered mountainous loss, have received a gift. They have an ability to touch us, to leave us speechless and frozen in our tracks. The great ones bring us to our knees. Art should elicit powerful emotion. We cry lyrics, bleed words, slip along the stroke of a brush on canvas. Later, we wonder. We relate. We atone. We are silenced by beauty in any form.
Frida Kahlo is a beautiful woman, not solely based upon her exotic looks. Rather, she was brave. A candle whose wick of pain lit up, producing epic art. A soul of self- forged steel. More than a dependant dove, she reflected back as a woman of worth, separate from cultural norms, soldiering pain. She dared to dream. A brave act during a time in history when a woman’s artistic passion was viewed as a, ‘hobby,’ supported mainly by men of financial worth. An era, whereby, a woman with physical disabilities was viewed as less attractive, even burdensome. Frida Kahlo dared to dream because life handed her a gift she didn’t ask for. She fought the establishment. This is a courageous stand to take at any time in history.
Art in any form, teaches us about the resiliency and beauty of the human spirit. It can sprout from pain with shoots of tender, fierce resolve.
She’s in us.
Pandemic Painting #7