This exquisite photograph comes from a book I’ve owned since 2000. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, by Isabel Alcántara and Sandra Egnolff.
Even before I was gifted this book I had read much about Frida, and greatly admired the Mexican artist and her work. Her story is one of triumph over tragedy. Or maybe that should read ‘triumph through tragedy’, for Frida may not have become a painter if she hadn’t suffered a dreadful accident at the age of eighteen, which left her bedridden for long periods of time.
However, it is not the book I wish to write about here, but the documentary Viva la Vida by director Giovanni Troilo, which I viewed last week. I had hoped for something fresh, a different perspective to illuminate Frida’s work, or life, but unfortunately the film failed me in this respect. The one person in the film who did add depth to my knowledge of the artist was Hilda Trujillo Soto, the director of Casa Azul (the Blue House), which was once Frida Kahlo’s home and is now the Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City.
Hilda Trujillo Soto spoke of the personal collection of Frida’s photographs that she had uncovered. These are now housed in the museum, along with many other exhibits of medical paraphernalia and Frida’s clothes. There are cabinets full of corsets, protheses and back braces, standing alongside the brightly-coloured traditional Mexican outfits Frida loved wearing, and the jewellery she adorned them with. It is with these very real ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ garments that we are made aware of the private universe Frida Kahlo inhabited. Place these items alongside her paintings, and any viewer would know just who Frida Kahlo was, as a woman and an artist.
The film did not add any more to what we know of Frida Kahlo. But, by all means go and see Viva La Vida. If you are dismissive of the two actresses drifting across the countryside in floaty clothing (as I was), who are supposed to represent the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ selves of the artist, you will still be moved by the triumph of the ‘real’ Frida, with her tenacity of spirit and ability to produce brilliant paintings despite living with intense pain and suffering throughout her life.
Frida Kahlo b. 1907 d. 1954. You will always inspire.