Fifty years after her death, the much-guarded journal of the adored painter Frida Kahlo has been released. Half illustration, half text, the book offers an intimate look into a brilliant yet troubled mind.
I’m sort of going through a Frida Kahlo phase right now. What a fascinating woman! Her painful and turbulent life inspired works of art that are both haunting and illuminating. As a journaler myself, when I found out you could buy her journal – in color, with paintings throughout – I had to have it. I don’t just consider this one of my books; I consider it one of my treasures.
As a recap, Frida Kahlo had health problems throughout her life. From polio as a kid to an accident that caused life-long spinal problems, Frida Kahlo was in and out of the hospital constantly.
Her paintings are mostly about her struggles. There’s one painting where you can see inside her body to her spine, which she depicts as a broken Greek column, and she has needles sticking out all over her body. What a haunting depiction of a shattered body!
I can specifically pinpoint the moment I went from being aware of Frida Kahlo to loving her. Honestly, her art is such that I highly disliked it for a long time because her paintings seemed morbid and confusing. There’s probably a cultural gap; I read Mexicans were (are?) interested in the grotesque, and goodness knows Americans expect art to be beautiful and perfect, and we like to pretend life is the same way.
Then I’d read the story behind each painting and become stunned by its genius.
For instance, there’s a painting of her lying in bed with a large cone sticking out of her mouth, and inside the cone is vile-looking meat. It’s disturbing, to be honest with you. Come to find out, when her health was failing and her appetite non-existent, her doctor force-fed her pureed fatty meat through a cone. The title of the painting is “Without Hope.”
Wow. As soon as I understood the painting, I felt like I also fully understood how she felt as that disgusting food was shoved down her throat. It’s stunning.
But like I was saying, there was a specific moment when I did a 180 and decided to love her. It was shortly before her death when a gallery hosted her last art showing. No one thought she’d be able to make it, but she got an ambulance to take her to the gallery where a bed was set up for her. Amazing! She never gave up.
The journal is fascinating because I don’t think it was meant for anyone to see, and therefore doesn’t make coherent sense. For me, that makes it fun. It’s a puzzle to figure out. For instance, some people argue that her diary indicates that she committed suicide; I believe it proves that she did not. Also, she wrote a bunch of love letters, and then later in a different colored ink wrote in “Diego” at the top (her husband’s name). Why add it in later? Were the love letters really about him?
It’s also a beautiful journal. While all her paintings are done in a style specific to her, her journal is more liberating, and it contains works of art unlike anything you’ve seen her do before.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves Frida, or who loves art, or who is fascinated by living with disabilities, or who is human....more