Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Diary of Frida Kahlo

I have developed something of a fascination with Frida Kahlo, and this diary is a glimpse inside the mind of a woman who's image is so familiar. I am not sure what I expected from her diary, probably something coherent and chronological, what you get is artistic chaos. The book is an actual facsimile of her diary, each page reproduced as it appears, complete with smudges, blotches and crossings-out, with commentary and translation in the second half of the book. It is not a painter's notebook, not preparatory sketches or anything, the images are quite separate from her painting style which is very neat and stylised, they are informal and haphazard, sometimes mere doodles, sometimes wild colourful images:

There are letters throughout, often addressed to Diego, her adoration of him is repeated frequently, and some long pages of rambling, what she writes about is very much inside her head, they are musings on how she feels rather than any recounting of events, totally stream of consciousness. Dates are few and far between. Sometimes it sounds like she is just playing with words. Sometimes it reads as poetry though that may not have been her intention. 
I loved this piece about a childhood imaginary friend:
"I must have been six years old when I had the intense experience of an imaginary friendship with a little girl ... roughly my own age. On the window of my old room, facing Allende Street, I used to breathe on one of the top panes. And with my finger I would draw a 'door' ... Through that 'door' I would come out, in my imagination and hurriedly, with immense happiness, I would cross all the field I could see until I reached a dairy store called PINZON ... Through the 'O' in PINZON I entered and descended impetuously to the entrails of the earth, where 'my imaginary friend' always waited for me. I don't remember her appearance or her colour. But I do remember her joyfulness - she laughed a lot. Soundlessly. She was agile and danced as if she were weightless. I followed her in every movement and while she danced, I told her my secret problems." (p.246)

Everything she does seems to have symbolic significance, particularly from Mexican art and mythology and also political icons. She was a passionate communist and idealist, and fascinated by the history and culture of her own country and the potential the communism offered to Mexico. 
"1st. I'm convinced of my disagreement with the counterrevolution - imperialism - fascism - religions - stupidity - capitalism - and the whole gamut of bourgeois tricks - I wish to cooperate with the revolution in transforming the world into a classless one so that we can attain a better rhythm for the oppressed classes 2nd. a timely moment to clarify who are the allies of the Revolution Read Lenin - Stalin - Learn that I am nothing but a 'small damned' part of the revolutionary movement. Always revolutionary never dead, never useless." (p.251)

Her own physical state is of ongoing concern. Having contracted polio as a child, followed by a catastrophic bus accident at 18 she spends her entire life undergoing extensive medical and surgical procedures; as she says however, not sick but broken. She spent periods of her life bedridden and often in spinal casts, but would paint anyway. Although she is preoccupied with her medical problems her overriding emotion seems to be frustration that they prevent her accomplishing what she wants in life. She did suffer from depression and it has been suggested that she committed suicide, but she expresses happiness and hope just as frequently as despair. This painting of her feet I found the most poignant, painted prior to, and somehow prophetic of the amputation of her foot due to gangrene, the words say 'Feet what do I need them for If I have wings to fly'.
She is such a wonderful character with such a vivid imagination. She lived a life of huge contrasts, the long periods of illness and confinement contrasting with an intense involvement with and influence from a fascinating period of world cultural and political change. A true cultural icon. You can see her complete works here and you can see a clip of the film Frida on youtube here, the whole things can be watched on Lovefilm Instant.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a fascinating book. I love Kahlo's work and enjoyed the film very much too. There are also a couple of novels about her.


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