My love for Frida Kahlo started in college thanks to an art history class. It was one of those one-semester classes that tried to encompass all art, from all eras and centuries, in the matter of three months. Clearly a dumb move, as you just can’t cover all art that quickly and do any of it proper justice. But I took it as one of those “overview” type of classes freshman year because I was considering minoring in the subject.
As with most great artists, Kahlo had her fair share of tragedy. She survived polio as a child, several physical ailments, including spina bifida, a near-death accident thanks to a trolley car, miscarriages, and the most debilitating, tumultuous and psychologically damaging tragedy of all, but perhaps the one that most fueled her art, her marriage to fellow Mexican painter Diego Rivera. A man who cheated on her relentlessly, even with Kahlo’s sister at one point.
Kahlo was also no saint and also indulged in extramarital affairs with both men and women, including (another one of my personal favorites) Josephine Baker. But is was the affair with her sister Cristina that forced Kahlo to divorce Rivera in 1939 after only a year of marriage — they married again in 1940. It wouldn’t be until after her death that Rivera, in his autobiography, wrote that his love for Kahlo was the most important aspect of his life, and it was a realization that came far too late. Isn’t it always that way?
Kahlo’s fascinating personal life aside, her artwork is devastatingly gorgeous and honest. It’s often painful, especially when you know a bit about the background that contributes to it all, but in that way it makes it all that much more powerful.
Although Americans usually look toward Cinco de Mayo as a day to get drunk on tequila (as they do on St. Patrick’s Day with green beer and Irish whiskey), the day is actually a celebration of the 1862 Battle of Puebla when the invading French, led by Napoleon III, were pretty much kicked in the ass by the Mexican Indian soldiers and sent packing. So no, it is not Mexican Independence Day after all, that happens to be on September 16th.
While I know many of you may already be half in the bag on margaritas and such, when you sober up, get a little helping of culture and celebrate Mexican painter Frida Kahlo for not only her contributions to the art world, but the fact that she was pretty much a bad-ass as well. The world does love bad-asses.