I’ve been thinking a lot about Frida Kahlo the last few weeks. I have always enjoyed her artwork and been fascinated by her. It wasn’t until recently that I connected with her more personally. I’ve been learning more about her, exploring more of her art, thinking a lot about her… Frida suffered terribly from chronic pain resulting from early childhood polio and serious injuries from a bus crash at only 18. She had many broken bones and was bedridden for a time, and endured many surgeries. I read one report that she had more than 30 surgeries over her life. Frida knew from childhood about sickness and the frailty of our human bodies. Then, her body was literally pierced and crushed. I imagine the accident created a turning point in her life, a clear before and after, where things were never the same and she was never without physical reminders and pain.
I was in an accident at 23. Fortunately, my injuries were nowhere near as extensive as Frida’s. Yet it did mark a transformation in my life. My fibromyalgia came along after that, and I think as a result of the accident. Since Oct. 2001, I have experienced pain probably every day and my life has been forever changed. I thought that was hard until I experienced the heartbreak of infertility.
Frida also suffered infertility. She had several miscarriages and at least three medically needed abortions. She was never able to carry a child to term and have the child she longed for. I read an account that described the infertility as possibly resulting from the accident (see http://scienceillustrated.com.au/blog/science/news/understanding-frida-kahlos-fertility-problems/). Dr. Fernando Antelo speculated that the accident caused something called Asherman’s syndrome where scarring on the uterus prevented successful pregnancy.
Frida’s work expressed so much of her pain from these experiences. I didn’t realize until recently how much of her work dealt with fertility themes – works like The Sun and Life, Moses, and of course, Henry Ford Hospital, 1932.
I think the artwork that most speaks to me these days is her body cast painted with a curled fetus on the belly. To me, it speaks so clearly of the pain she must have felt – both physically and emotionally – as well as her commitment to live and create and change the world. We live in vastly different times and places, our experiences are very different, yet I understand her and feel that kinship, sisterhood. She expresses the pain in beautiful ways I cannot, and I feel relief from her expression, comfort in her intelligence and courage. Learning more about her, I find I have a new hero and I’m inspired.
Top Image: Frida Kahlo in a boat (I believe this is a photo by Fritz Henle. I found it on Pinterest, so not entirely sure)
Bottom Image: Frida’s body cast
Text copyright Snowdroplets 2016