Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Frida Kahlo is an artist who has fascinated me, she’s one of those personalities that the more you learn about her, the more enigmatic she gets.
Her life and work was full of polarities and contradictions, she suffered with pain and illness most of her life, but was always full of ‘alegria’ (joy, life and gaiety). She was tremendously dignified, often called queenly, yet loved smutty jokes, the ruder the better. She was part Spanish on her mother’s side and half German on her Father’s, yet she felt passionately and purely Mexican. She loved to wear traditional flamboyant mexican costume, she would cause quite a sensation when abroad, in San Francisco she had children following her demanding to know where the circus was. She was remarkable in her honesty, but also in her concealment. Her paintings show the most intimate and painful episodes of her life rendered with unflinching accuracy, and yet she used her own face and body to present a mask to the world. She was passionately devoted to Diego Rivera and yet she had numerous affairs with both sexes . She relished life and loved to party, to sing and drink and seize the day, yet she was obsessed by, and plagued by death. She was insecure and desperate to be remembered by friends and family in her lifetime and she has become one of the most iconic images after her death.
I was very lucky to visit her house for the second time, we were staying with a dear friend whose flat was just an hour’s walk from Frida’s house.
I set off on my own, really relishing turning off the busy high street down a beautiful cobbled street, with grand old trees dappling the light and buckling the pavement. I immersed myself in following Frida’s footsteps, it was easy to imagine her here, picking up bunches of flowers, being kind to the beggar boy, and searingly sarcastic to the posh people. I walked passed the church, it’s possible it was the one she got kicked out of for asking if Mary was really a virgin. I arrived at The Casa Azul (Blue House) to join a long queue of people, the vast majority Mexicans, waiting to see inside her place, I’m sure she would have been mightyly gratified, this is an image I made of the queue outside layered with some thoughts I wrote in my sketchbook.
It’s a beautiful house and museum with that lovely inside/outside design that is so delightful in Mexico, much of the space being a patio garden, and having big doors to let the light in. It’s fascinating to see her paints laid out as she used them, her art books, and the bed where she convalesced and died, it still has a mirror above it that her mother attached early in her career . She was unable to move so she would lie on her back and paint the nearest thing available, herself. I was really moved to witness the place where her famous self portraits were born.
I’m really thrilled to be running a workshop exploring this fascinating woman and her work, we are going to be approaching her creatively incorporating some of her ideas into our own work. I’ll let you know more soon!