“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my reality” – Frida Kahlo on her art

Ever since I first saw her works at the age of eleven, I have loved the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s work. Born 1907 in Mexico City and deceased 1954 also in Mexico City, Ms. Kahlo lived a wild, creative life despite dying way too young. After being in a terrible traffic accident in 1925, Kahlo had severe back problems, making it difficult for her to walk. She was married to another famous Mexican artist, Diego Riviera, who Kahlo divorced in 1939 only to remarry in 1940. (Riviera was known for being a serial adulterer). Kahlo had many miscarriages, which resulted in her dyeing childless much against her will. Her health was always fragile. Despite her hard life, Kahlo produced fantastically gripping paintings which often portrayed biographical reflections upon her own life. Frida Kahlo is perhaps one of the most recognized women artists; one of Mexico’s most internationally recognized artists, and is perhaps one of the greatest artists ever to have lived.

In this post I will show some of significant work by Kahlo while explaining what it is that captures me about them. I will have to underline the fact that the works shown in this entry are my personal favorites. For a perhaps better overall view of her lifelong work, visit this page.

For more on Kahlo’s life, read her Wikipedia page or watch Julie Taymors “Frida” (2002) film about the artist life starring Salma Hayek. Decent film, even if it could have concentrated more on Kahlo’s artistic life and less of the love/sex life aspects of her relationships.

This painting is called “The Wounded Deer” (1946). Kahlo has portrayed herself as a deer which is viciously being hunted down with sharp, hurtful arrows. It’s easy to understand what the artist is trying to express in this piece; “The Wounded Deer” tells the harsh experience of life. The arrows shot at the defenseless deer, who in this case is a person, keeps on running in hopes of surviving the ruthless attacks. The blood oozing from the wounds kills the little hope the viewer could share with the deer. Kahlo is able to, in this painting, express sorrow and pain beyond belief.

This painting is called “Diego on my mind” (1943). Frida Kahlo has in this painting portrayed herself with her husband labeled on her forehead. This portrays, as well as the obvious title, Kahlo’s continued and frequent thoughts on her husband. Clever portrayal on how, after a series of continuing recurrent thoughts on one a specific person, the “thought of” person becomes “tattooed” into the consciousness of the thinker. Little bit lighter subject matter from Kahlo, but still very interesting.

This piece’s name is “Henry Ford Hospital” (1932). Kahlo painted this after having a miscarriage. The painting shows the agony of loss and depression of knowing you can never get back what you have once and irrevocably lost to time and death. The sorrow shines through this brutal and somewhat bloody painting. Kahlo has painted herself lying helpless on her bed as the baby she was going to have drifts away from her, out of her reach forever. A truly gloomy painting.

“The Broken Column” (1944) portrays Kahlo’s back problems and many difficult operations. The tears steaming in her eyes express the frustrations, humiliations and bitterness resulted from these aching treatments, the needles dinged into her whole body a symbol of the pain being everywhere. This painting was done after Kahlo had to don and wear a steel corset to hold her upright , which she experienced as a both a torture and punishment. Some say that the larger, more visible nail piercing her left side of her chest was an expression of the emotional pain Diego caused her. “The Broken Column” scared the life out of me the first time a saw it. Still does.

“Roots” portrays a woman’s connection to the earth.  Kahlo made quite a few portraits of herself surrounded by animals and nature, but this painting stands out by its self with its (perhaps?) strong love to the earth. “Roots”, to me, reminds us that we all come from nature and whether we like it or not we must live with a connection to nature. Nature is shown as beautiful, yet demanding in this piece. The woman is happily in touch with her origins, hence the title.

So there you have it: five of my favorite Frida Kahlo works. What did you guys think of them?