“Why do I need feet, when I have wings to fly.“
If I were to talk about my first time to visit Frida Kahlo’s house, la Casa Azul (The Blue House), in Coyoacán, Mexico, I would start with the first time I heard of the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo (1907- 54) nearly 30 years ago and how the more I learned of her life, art, and spirit the more I fell in love.
I’d speak of her incredible life, filled with pain, passion, heartbreak, art, and joy. I’d talk of how she contracted polio as a child that left her bedridden for one year, one leg shriveled and shorter than the other, and permanently infected her spinal column. I’d speak of the trolley car accident when she was 18 that shattered her pelvis, fractured her spine, ribs, collarbone, right leg, and shoulder that caused her to live the rest of her life in braces, traction, and intense pain.
Frida had more than thirty operations and spent most of her life in pain and flat on her back. I’d speak of the self-revelatory art the years trapped in bed birthed, and how she created a life of passion, politics, travel, art, and love.
Yet, people who knew her remember for her alegria, happiness. Her biographers describe her:
Frida had huge lust for life. She had a seductive effect on many people and charmed everyone. People loved her beauty, personality, and talent. She was also known for her dark sense of humour and sharp wit. Frida loved dancing, drinking and parties. She took great pride in keeping a home for Diego and loved looking after him. She lavished attention on her pets – mischievous spider monkeys, dogs, cats and birds and adored children. She loved nonsense, gossip and dirty jokes and abhorred pretension. She treated servants like family and students like esteemed colleagues.
If I were to talk about my first time to visit her house, I might talk about how I bought the tickets first and arranged our plane tickets to Oaxaca, México around these tickets and arranged to stay in Mexico City just to see her home.
I might then talk about how after waiting in line, we discovered the tickets were not valid, since they hadn’t been bought directly from the museum. I might then talk about the lines of people wrapped around the block. I’d mention how we weren’t to be allowed in, how the people working there were quite sorry, but it was simply not possible. I’d then talk of the many conversations, my pleas (that I was wrapped in a vice-like grip around around both of their legs, begging for entrance, eyeing the security gatnd plotting the speed and height necessary for me to jump it), and the eventual gentleness of the eyes of two young people who said if we bought new tickets, we could enter.
I’d then talk of how as we moved through Frida’s home, I kept spontaneously bursting into tears with emotion.
Better not to talk and, instead, let Frida’s home, art, words, and life speak for themselves.
“Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light.”
Frida married artist Diego Rivera, a wedding her mother described as, “an elephant marrying a dove.” Frida herself said later, “There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”
Diego described her work: “I recommend her to you, not as a husband but as an enthusiastic admirer of her work, acid and tender, hard as steel and delicate and fine as a butterfly’s wing, lovable as a beautiful smile, and as profound and cruel as the bitterness of life.”
“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”
“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and moves away.”
Frida’s studio, paints, and brushes:
“Painting completed my life.”
“I think that little by little I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.”
Frida’s dresses and braces:
“Enagua: a long skirt with a waistband that has a ruffle sewn to it.
The adornment of the Tehuana dress is centered around the upper part of the body. Chain stitch blouses, flowers, highly decorated jewelry, earrings, necklaces and rings will always be concentrated from the torso up, obliging the viewer to focus on Frida’s upper body and providing her with the opportunity to edit and fragment herself, distracting the viewer from her legs and lower part of her body.”
Frida’s courtyard and gardens:
“I wish I could do whatever I liked behind the curtain of ‘madness’. Then: I’d arrange flowers, all day long, I’d paint; pain, love and tenderness, I would laugh as much as I feel like at the stupidity of others, and they would all say: Poor thing, she’s crazy! (Above all I would laugh at my own stupidity.) I would build my world which while I lived, would be in agreement with all the worlds. The day, or the hour, or the minute that I lived would be mine and everyone else’s – my madness would not be an escape from ‘reality’.”