friday with frida

How nice it is to skip out early on a Friday and play hookey from work!

It’s not that I’m not busy, I am. But there were a few good reasons why that wasn’t a good enough reason to stay at work on Friday. First, M had the afternoon off. Such is the unanticipated life of a sole practitioner — you can’t exactly plan when you will have a busy week or a slow one.

Second, I’d been wanting to check out the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the SF MoMa since it arrived three months ago (actually I remember peesticksandstones writing about it last spring and it stuck with me). Well it has been quite a busy three months and I hadn’t been able to go, and today is the last day of the exhibit.

And sometimes you just have to say “fuck it” to that long list of things to do and just be. So we did. 

After working at home the slightest bit in the morning, we headed in to San Francisco on a beautiful warm and sunny afternoon. We walked along the waterfront, which was packed with the lunchtime rush of workers and tourists (September is a very popular time to visit SF). There was a live blues band on the bay and thousands of people enjoying a gorgeous day outside. We stopped at a campaign table and I got my first ever button, and used our cell phone to snap a picture of M with a life-size cardboard cutout of a certain candidate we hope wins (by a landslide).

Then we slowly made our way to a lovely cafe for lunch, where we splurged and toasted being done with our home study. After some tea to redirect the blood from our stomachs to our heads and feet, we walked up to the SF MoMa, which I should say is normally not my favorite museum. (To be perfectly honest, much of what passes for “modern art” today just doesn’t appeal to me.) Luckily we had purchased tickets in advance, because the Frida Kahlo exhibit was in its last days and sold out through the weekend. 

It was packed, but once the crowd cleared from each painting, you could get up there and see her amazing work up close, with its vibrant color and incredible detail. You could read the story of each piece along with the curator’s notes and the analyses of art historians.

Her life is so fascinating and her beautiful surrealistic images so influential and compelling that today the museum reported that 400,000 people have visited the exhibit over the past three months.  

“The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Diego, Me and Senor Xolotl” (1949)

Born in Mexico City just over a century ago, this woman had so much pain and tragedy in her life, from a childhood bout with polio that left her leg disfigured, to a tragic accident at 18 that shattered her spinal column, broke her collarbone, ribs, leg and pelvis, and punctured her uterus. She was thought to have had over 30 surgical procedures during her life.

The detachment she felt from her own body is evident in her many self portraits. Her infertility and miscarriage are painfully chronicled in her paintings, which so clearly illustrate her grief, isolation, anguish, and compromised identity as a woman and wife. Like many childless infertiles, she had an affinity for animals. Her self portraits with monkeys and birds are more famous than those of her miscarriage. 

“Henry Ford Hospital” (1932) (miscarriage in Detroit)

She would have been about 25 when she suffered a dangerous miscarriage and almost bled to death. With her damaged uterus it was impossible to carry a baby to term. Her art was the first in the modern era to represent the trauma of infertility and babyloss in this way, not just in graphic form, but in the emotional and psychological sense. That separation of heart (and womb) from body appears throughout her work. 

“Las Dos Fridas” (1939) (the one he loved-right, and the one he left-left)

Her tumultuous marriage(s) to Diego Rivera, the fantastic muralist and love of her life, was the stuff epic stories are made of. They were contemporaries among the finest artists of their time. They helped bring Mexican culture and art to the forefront of the international stage. He with his political message, and she with her personal story she bared for all the world to see.

Her husband’s affair with her sister crushed her, as reflected in her famous painting below, inspired by a news story of a man who killed his girlfriend with just “a few small nips.” Yet Frida and Diego were married and divorced once more after that. 

“A Few Small Nips” (1935)

She left an amazing artistic and cultural legacy. Yet she had so much suffering in her life that when she was near the end, she said: “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return.” Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

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~ by luna on September 28, 2008.

16 Responses to “friday with frida”

  1. Glad you got to see it. I saw it when it was here on the east coast. Crowds aside – Incredible! I wrote about it here: http://auterusdivided.blogspot.com/2008/04/t-shirts-for-habitual-aborter.html

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Luna. I’m so envious that you got to see that show – it looks amazing. I’ve always loved Frida Kahlo’s work but I’ve never had the chance to see any of it in person.

  3. I’d never heard of her but her art is amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Wow. Lovely. Thanks, Luna.

  5. The docudrama of her life starring Salma Hayek has long been on my list of movies to see. Though I’ve wanted to see the movie and love art, I wasn’t too familiar with Frida’s works or her life. I am even more intrigued than I was before and will make it a priority to learn more about her life, art, and how the two blend. Thank you for sharing this, Luna.

  6. I love it when a good blog post turns me on to something new.

  7. I wasn’t aware of her miscarriage and infertility. That adds a whole new dimension to her work. Thanks!

  8. I saw this exhibit last spring when it was in Philly, and it was incredibly powerful. Glad you were able to see it in person.

  9. I’ve been a fan of Frida’s since my adolescence. I haven’t seen this show, but did have the chance to visit her home in Mexico City a few years ago. If you ever go to Mexico City, it’s definitely worth a visit. It also happens to be in a lovely neighborhood that’s worth a visit unto itself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this exhibit.

  10. I’m glad that you played hookey from work and so got to see the exhibition before it closed.

    I’m also glad that you wrote about her attempts at representing miscarriage in her paintings. I’m teaching a class on Kahlo in a couple of weeks, and I always talk about these particular images – to me, they are among the most powerful of her works.

  11. So glad you got to see this! I really was breathless standing in front of so many of those paintings. I’ve always loved Frida, but there’s so much more to that art to me now — the blood, the loss… just punched me right in the gut. That “love embrace” one actually brought tears to my eyes.

  12. Sounds like w wonderful day. We went on Saturday and then went out to a god dinner. It was very crowded but I’m so glad I went.

  13. umm…We went out to a “good” dinner. Nothing divine. Just “good”.

  14. I am so, so sorry I missed this exhibit. I kept meaning to go. *kicking self* I too was unaware of her infertility and miscarriages until now. That adds such a personal dimension. Thanks for the share!

    I am so glad you got a chance to just be in SF. What a beautiful city. It lifts my spirits every time I step foot into it.

  15. wow, what a story, i had no idea about her history. geez some of us just get the short end of the stick over and over again. i want to get my hands on the movie about her life.

  16. I also was lucky enough to check out the exhibit @ SFMOMA. Powerful stuff.
    Just wanted to say I’m still here reading.

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