I love it when Frida — la Friducha — was chingona. The beautiful, delicate woman husband Diego Rivera used to call his paloma, his dove. She wasn’t always beautiful and delicate. Struggling with her ailing body from a young age, she didn’t have any extra effs left to give. She was herself — unique, raw, hairy, unabashed and rebellious. Instead of becoming a fine Mexican wife, raising a houseful of children and working in the kitchen, she became a working artist.
When her mother expected her daughters to be the epitome of femininity, Frida showed up to a family photo with a man’s suit and still outshined her matronly sisters — slacks, tie and all. Just imagine the look on her mother’s face when she walked in the room. I bet she died a thousand deaths.
Oh, Frida, what am I going to do with you?
And then there was Diego. The fat frog, prodigious in talent and ego. He wooed women the way he wooed his paintbrushes on the wall, creating magnificent murals in Mexico. He was her friend, her husband, her comrade, her mentor, her lover and her tormentor. Frida came for Diego when cheated on her with her sister Cristina. There were so many women and it caused her much pain, to be sure. But, when the woman was her sister, it was worse than a train wreck.
She came for the snooty French artists — the Surrealists — she was forced to rub elbows with. She was not impressed with their refined, European ways. Diego loved it all, of course, loved the constant stroking of his male ego. Frida looked at it all with disdain, deeply missing her Mexican roots — the people, the sun, the cactus, the simple humility. No doubt she was like an exotic bird, walking the streets of Paris with her long, flowing Tehuana skirts, her colorful rebozos, the layers of indigenous jewelry (Diego loved to gift her with jewelry), flowers in her hair, the braids coiled on the top of her head just so. What a sight she must have been! The only thing about this exotic bird was she refused to be caged.
She came for those who doubted her skill and creativity as an artist. If you’ve had the good fortune of seeing a Frida Kahlo painting in person, you understand. Her paintings are beautiful and tragic yet skillfully detailed, down to a drop of blood on the corner of a baby’s mouth or tiny embroidered flowers on the ballet slippers in her wedding portrait hanging in San Francisco MoMA. Unlike the male artists of the day, Frida didn’t need any fancy landscapes (no lily pads or haystacks for Frida) and she certainly didn’t need ballerinas to inspire her art — she had herself. And it was enough.
Image source: Alkeemi
Frida taught me I am enough of an inspiration as an artist and as a woman. I can be my own muse. In July we celebrate both the life and death of la Friducha. Happy 109th birthday, Frida.