Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What do I need my feet for if I have wings to fly

This is the second part of my post on Frida Kahlo.
 The idea of being deeply connected to nature pervades many of the themes of her paintings. She associated plants with life and fertility. “Roots” is a clear example of this.   In this picture she painted herself with an open bosom that exposes a vine thriving in her body. Frida was unable to carry her babies to term. She had many miscarriages.
Growing and nurturing plants may have helped her to cope with the pain of her losses. She painted plants with great care. The association of plants with life may also be connected with the Aztec poets’ perspective on plants and life: "We are the grass in spring. Our heart comes, it blooms and opens, our body causes some flowers to blossom, and then all withers." 
 Ironically, the plant that sprouts from her body is the Calotropis procera, also known as the Apple of Sodom. This plant contains a poisonous fluid in its leaves that was used by the Indians of Latin America to commit suicide.
 The background of “Roots” is desolate and gloomy, alluding to her loneliness. I noticed the same association in “The Two Fridas” and “Henry Ford Hospital”. The same applies to "The Little Deer".

 In this painting Frida becomes a deer. Her head is crowned with antlers and she withstands the suffering that life inflicts upon her in the form of arrows, a symbol of the fate that befell her.
  I believe she portrays her resilience here. The word “Carma” inscribed on the lower-left corner evokes a belief related to Eastern religions. Her unity with nature is made clear once again. 
 The deer is a male, and this may have to do with the fact that she'd kept a male deer as a pet.
 This is a painting she gave to her friends Arcady Boytler and his wife, Lina. She also wrote a poem to them along with this painting. (Arcady Boytler had back problems and he'd recommended her a surgeon in New York.)
 The deer walked alone
sad and very wounded
until in Arcady and Lina
he found warmth and a nest.

When the deer returns
strong, happy and cured
the wounds he has now
will all be erased.
Thank you, children of my heart,
thank you for so much advice.
In the forest of the deer
the sky is brightening
I leave you my portrait
so that you will have my presence
all the days and nights
that I am away from you.

Sadness portrays herself
in all my paintings
but that’s how my condition is
I no longer have structure.
Nevertheless, I carry
joy in my heart
knowing that Arcady and Lina
love me as I am.

 In 1938 she painted “What the Water Gave Me”, which appears to be a daydream she had while bathing.  This is what she said about this painting:
“It is an image of passing time about time and childhood games in the bathtub and the sadness of what happened to me in my life.” This painting incorporates elements from other paintings. 
  Her toes are mirrored by another pair of fragmented feet, but her legs are not well defined in space. They are also fragmented. The parts of the legs that are not visible are replaced by a variety of symbols and events, suggesting that her life had been disjointed by them.  She gave it to her lover Nickolas Muray, a photographer from Hungary.

In 1945 Frida painted “Moses” after reading Sigmund Freud’s essay “Moses and Monotheism”.  She said she'd painted the sun as the center of all religions, as the first god and as the creator and producer of life. This painting shows a pantheon of gods and historical figures.
 Frida was awarded the Ministry of Education Prize for "Moses" in 1945. I think this masterpiece encompasses the world's collective consciousness, religions and systems of beliefs.
About this painting she also said:
“What I wanted to convey most intensely, most clearly, was that the reason people need to invent or imagine heroes and gods is pure fear. Fear of life and fear of death. I started painting the figure of Moses as a child. I painted him as he is described in many legends, abandoned in a basket and floating along a river. I tried to make the open basket, covered with an animal hide, as reminiscent as possible of a womb, because—according to Freud—the basket is an exposed womb, and water signifies the maternal spring from which the child is born.”

In "Sun and Life" the sun reappears as a central figure amid plants that look like penises and wombs. One of them seems to harbor a baby. The sun has a face with  a third eye that is weeping.  Her obsession with fertility is present in many of her artworks. 
 The year before she died her right leg had to be amputated below the knee. She became very depressed after this surgery.

 This is the last painting she worked on before she died in 1954.  On one of the slices of watermelon she wrote her name, the name of her hometown (Coyoacan) and the words “Viva la Vida” (Long Live Life). She might have tried to challenge death through this powerful image. 
   The year she died the first polio vaccine (Salk) was tested in the United States. In Mexico women were granted the right to vote for the first time. 
  Frida kahlo's legacy is still alive, enshrined in the spirit of resilience that she instilled in her works. Like a beacon of hope, her art continues to inspire and empower people all over the world.

 My next blog post will be published by March 27.


  1. What an amazing person she was. Such a sad life, but she managed to wrest a triumph from her sufferings through her art. This was a good article; thanks for the information. This Thursday my art students (8 to 12) will be taking inspiration from some selected prints for their own paintings.

  2. Hello Julia:

    We have found this post, as a continuation of Part I, to be hugely interesting and has provided us with further insight into the life and work of a remarkable woman. Thank you for such an introduction.

    1. Thank you, Jane and Lance.
      She was a remarkable woman. She challenged the prejudices of her times in every way. She was very talented, sensitive and smart.

  3. Seems she put a lot of herself into the paintings.

    1. Yes, that's why they are so intense and powerful.
      Thank you for commenting, Patsy.

  4. I really enjoyed reading the first and second part of Frida Kahlo's art and life. I did not know this artist until you posted about her. I guess she was an extraordinary woman and artist.She had a very personal style that it was perfectly expressed in her paints. She did what she wanted to do with total assumption of her boundaries. Even with her sad life, she reflected some kind of joy in her works.
    Simply,I want to congratulate you Julia for posting the art and life of Frida Kahlo. Her last paint,where she wrote "Viva la Vida"on the slide the watermelon,makes me think she was very emotional and sensitive woman. That is why I liked her story. Thank you !!

    1. Yes, MS. Thank you for your comment.
      I think we would have been good friends. She had a very intense personality and she found joy amid the pain. This is very inspiring to me. Her works are a reflection of the kind of person she was: intense and honest.

  5. Hi Julia .. I missed her Exhibition in London last year and definitely rue that decision ... but I do want to find out more and you've beautifully set out many aspects to her life, and her thoughts through her words ..

    I will have to come back at some stage to give both these posts further due consideration ... thanks for letting us know more about her and her works ... art and writings ..

    Cheers Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary.
      If you want to learn more about this artist you can read her letters and diaries... there is a lot of nonsense and superficial information in the internet. To really get to understand her complexity, you need to read her letters and diaries.
      Thank you for visiting.

    2. Thanks Julia .. I suspect that's unlikely ... but there was a little art book produced for the Exhibition last year - that I think I'll get at some stage when I next see it ...

      And thanks for the thought .. cheers Hilary

  6. Hi Julia,

    Thank you for this second instalment. Your eloquence in your descriptions of Frida Kahlo brings out the emotive portrayals within her paintings. Each painting, a sense of her troubled moments. Each painting, a poignant depiction.

    A most thoughtful, wonderfully written article, Julia.

    Wishing you a peaceful weekend, my human friend.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar!

  7. Dear Julia
    I'm so sorry I've been remiss and absent so much of the time. I'm trying to re-acquaint myself with electronics. I got so far behind and it's not easy to catch up.
    How delightful that you are a Frida Kahlo fan. I was too, when I was growing up. I felt so much for her physical affliction and so charmed by her passion for life. I loved and hated Diego Rivera but was always happy that he cared for her in her last days. I had always thought he painted "Glorious Victory" when they were in the States together but I realized rather recently that he painted it after she died.

    You certainly gave meaning and life to her paintings. I loved your commentaries on them. I don't think I ever saw the bathtub one before.
    Frida had the Scorpionic charm to dazzle powerful men. This always intrigued me as I was growing up. To me, that meant she had the poower to be able to attract the men who could have any woman they desired. This is a beautiful and interesting post and I'm so sorry I missed the 1st one on her. I was too busy in my own Scorpio way, trying to snare powerful men. Hahaha They would be the already busy workmen that I am trying to get to finish my overdue pipe explosion

    By the way, Rivera's Guatemalan coup mural "Glorious Victory," is now rolled up and in the basement of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. It should be displayed again to remind America who was first responsible for this interventional waste of lives.

    1. Hi Manzanita.
      I love your insightful comments. I'm glad to read that you enjoy my words. I had fun writing it.
      I hope your Scorpionic charm is serving you well then.
      I will have to check "Glorious Victory" now. Diego Rivera's relationship with Frida was a very complex one. I believe he ended up being like a kind of son to her.
      It's lovely to read your comment... I have been wondering about you after so much snow fell in Montana.

  8. Anyone who is connected with Nature has to LOVE this artist.

  9. I am stunned by the wealth of her work, how much she poured of herself into each work. every item had a meaning. With such creativity flowing through her, she must have spent very little time sleeping.

  10. Julia, I love Part Two as well as Part One! You have clearly put a great deal of work into these two posts and the quality shows! I think Frida was connected to nature in a very special way. Being unable to bear children myself, I can feel and understand the kind of internal, very personal pain she must have felt, and that shows in the images in many of her works. Interesting how the plant that sprouts from her body in “Roots” contains a poisonous fluid. Wonder if it could be related to how she felt about her body every time she miscarried. All her paintings were very much a personal expression. I agree that in “The Little Deer,” Frida is portraying her resilience. I am intrigued by the “Carma” inscription on that painting and I believe you’re right, she was referring to karma. That’s a beautiful and heartfelt poem she wrote to her friends when she presented them with the painting.

    What Frida said about “What the Water Gave Me,” her comment on the passing of time, I found that very moving. I can relate so well, no wonder I like her. “Moses” is truly a masterful work of art! Your last line sums it all up so well, “Like a beacon of hope, her art continues to inspire and empower people all over the world.” Well said, Julia, and I agree. Thank you for the fantastic, well-written and comprehensive two-part post on Frida Kahlo, along with many of her paintings and words. I really loved it!! :)

    1. Thank you for your profound comment, my friend. I knew you would enjoy these posts.
      Her artworks are powerful. They are made of blood, raw emotions and passion.
      Yes, I really worked on these posts. Thank you for your kind words.


I appreciate each and every comment. Thank you.