I don’t know why I love her so much. Believe me it’s a question that curiosity has asked of me many times over the years.
She’s mysterious and enigmatic, as well as vulnerable and available.
She’s fierce and wildly soul passionate, as well as flawed and deeply fallible.
She’s subject to the ever changing blowing Mexican whims and to try to pin her down is futile.
I’ve tried, but to no avail!
I was just 20 years old when I bought her diaries. The Frida cult craze was not yet in its full iconic throttle. As an artist myself, a sensitive and shy dreamer, she enchanted and enthralled me immediately.
Frida Kahlo, whose birthday is celebrated this 6th July, was a pioneer in ways that we take for granted now: The art journaling, all poured out emotion, snippets of her bruised heart’s tales, the water-coloured walking wounded impact of her accidents (she counted her lifelong love to Diego as one of them!); The ‘selfies’ she painted, in the form of idealised self-portraits, long before even the Insta-camera, never mind Instagram!
Unlike any other artist before her, she lived, and exposed, her rawness. Of being a woman in a time when kudos to women artists was not yet in favour (and is still unravelling as I type!). She dared to be a voice of a woman in pain, in the inability to carry a child, and in the many betrayals that her lover, and life, bestowed upon her.
Yet she was no victim. Hell no! And that’s a part of why she speaks to us still now, stronger than ever, when everyone from Madonna, to Tracy Emin, and thousands of artists all over the world are in some way bewitched by her.
You could say that she was a narcissist, and you wouldn’t be wrong. You could call her self-indulgent, and though that may be part of how she remained so close to the cuts to the bones of her being, she was also very publicly and proudly an advocate for the rights of the Mexican people, about politics and, consciously or not, the visibility of being a woman who was, and is, allowed to be both creative and sexual. Frida lived her life as art, and whose art was her life. There was seemingly no separation! She was unapologetic about her realness, and though she chose to clothe herself and make up her hair in the costumes of the indigenous people of her beloved country, ironically, she was not hiding behind any mask. Her flawed and imperfect persona, her physical as well as emotional scars, became the unfettered, and unfiltered, ingredients that made up the creative matter of her art. Her art became her therapy, long before such a thing was so common place as it is today.
I stare at the poster of her that hangs on the wall of my living room. Indeed I have several dotted throughout my home. I have been looking at this image for a while, asking her questions, waiting for her to bemuse my muse with some epiphany or great insight. It doesn’t happen! She just gazes back, a force of brazen presence, that won’t, can’t and would never consider backing away from my gaze.
I am not alone in believing that some part of her lives within me, as silly as that sounds. That I was born with a slight sprinkle of her cellular magic that has been brushed eternal into my soul. Over the last quarter of a century I have discovered that there are many of us out there who claim to be a little part Frida incarnate. She was and has a lot to go around!
The thing about Frida was that she bore her life, her love, her pain, her beauty. All of it. Some she suffered through her self-imposed and human choices, and some through the twisted and unfair fates of her destined hand. She bore it all with such a spirit. An unbreakable spirit. There may have been times when she was broken and brought to her knees by life’s grief and brutality, but she never gave up, or gave in. She never shrunk herself down, hid or denied any of it. I wonder if it was because of this that her fire shone so bright!?
Maybe she reminds us of this within ourselves. A Mother Mary deity, a modern day Kali, a goddess of the twentieth century, and something, someone, that we, as women, need to believe in, to look up to in awe, to embrace, to mirror back to us the fragments of our vulnerable but invincible spirit. We might live in a time of swaddling self-help sanitisation, and faux fixes for our feral spirit, but Frida didn’t seek to ‘heal’ herself, but rather to roar out in force! Her art, her creative spirit, used her.
Not for the faint of heart. Not for those of us seeking to hold our pieces together in some kind of sane semblance of civil belonging. Where did Frida belong? In a way her art and life implores this question over and over again.
And isn’t it ironic that all these years later, she belongs to all of us in some way.
A myth and a mirror. A muse and a model. A misfit and a mistress of full passion and no fucks given!!
Maybe Frida was a trickster, waking us up to so much truth. Maybe she was a sorceress, her art and voice like incantations and spells weaving their web over the world.
I still don’t know why I love her. But maybe that’s the point?! I can’t put into words something that’s deeper. It’s a feeling that stirs within my own soul. It’s a truth that runs through my wild fire blood. And truth, when we recognise it, has no words.
Happy birthday Frida. And thank you. I love you xx
Heidi Hinda Chadwick
Creativity. Sexuality. Life. Art. Soul. Love.