177. FRIDA KAHLO: Strange like me
UPDATE (MARCH 2016): After months of research and deliberation with the Frida Kahlo estate, I have found that this quote has been misattributed to Frida Kahlo. Soon after posting the original comic, I was contacted by Rebecca Martin, who claimed that she was the author of the quote and that it had been mistakingly attributed to Kahlo. After doing my own research and reading the English translation of Kahlo’s diary (where this quote is supposedly from) I sided with Rebecca, but I wanted to be sure before I made any changes to the comic. So I enlisted the help of the Internet’s most-respected quote finder: the Quote Investigator. His website is dedicated to tracking down the origins of misattributed quotes. He generously agreed to conduct his own research and came to the same conclusion, that this quote has been misattributed to Kahlo. In short, Rebecca is a huge fan of Frida Kahlo and was inspired by her to write this quote and pasted it on a picture of Kahlo (which is where the confusion began) and submitted it to the popular blog PostSecret. You can read the Quote Investigator’s full report here. I know this news might be disappointing to some of you who have always believed that it came from Kahlo, but I think it reinforces the message of the comic: that Kahlo continues to inspire new generations of young women, including Rebecca Martin.
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was a Mexican painter. Unlike the figure from my previous comic, the stoic Marcus Aurelius, Frida was the exact opposite. Her life was ruled by emotion, passion, love and suffering. She was a remarkable woman, whom I was completely ignorant about until a friend of mine suggested I adapt one of her quotes (shout out to Morganna).
Frida painted mostly self-portraits. As she said “I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.” Her portraits were deeply personal and haunting. Although her style is described as surrealist, Frida stated “They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” Her portraits were raw emotion on canvas, depicting the unfiltered thoughts and feelings of its creator which were more often than not, pain and anguish.
Frida’s life was filled with physical suffering. She contracted polio at a young age, which caused her right leg to be much skinnier than her left, and led to severe spinal problems. Frida suffered “two grave accidents” in her life. The first as an 18-year-old, when the bus she was riding in with her boyfriend was struck by a trolley car. Frida was impaled by a handrail, the pole entering her left torso and exiting her vagina. Her spinal column, pelvis, collarbone and ribs were broken, her right leg was shattered and foot crushed. It was only during her recovery, while bedridden, did she start painting.
Frida’s second “grave accident” was meeting her husband Diego Rivera, who was a famous painter and nicknamed the ‘Michaelango of Mexico’. Frida first saw him when she was 15 and he was 36. Rivera was hired by Frida’s school to paint a mural. Frida proclaimed her love for him to a friend then and there. Their marriage was intense and tumultuous. Both had numerous affairs, Frida with both men and women (including one with communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky). Frida was obsessed with Diego, and the state of their relationship influenced many of her paintings, for instance in her piece Diego And I.
Frida’s later years were hindered by more physical problems. She had numerous surgeries to repair her damaged spine and went on to have two spinal fusions (her painting The Broken Column from this time). Complications from the surgery left her right leg gangrene, which had to be amputated in 1953.
Despite a lifetime of pain and turmoil, Frida still led an exciting life, mingling with famous revolutionaries and artists. And she had a force of personality and soaring spirit that seemed to make her irresistible to nearly everyone she met. Frida famously wrote in her diary after finding out that her leg had to be amputated: “Feet, what do I need them for? If I have wings to fly.”
The paintings I used in the comic are Self Portrait with Monkeys, Self Portrait (1941) and her most famous work The Two Fridas. The physical characteristics Frida was most proud of were her unibrow and moustache, which she carefully groomed with a comb.
– Most of the info in this post was sourced from this Vanity Fair article, worth reading if you want to learn more about Frida.
– I haven’t seen the movie Frida, starring Salma Hayek. Is it worth watching?