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  • In 1925,

  • Frida Kahlo was on her way home from school in Mexico City

  • when the bus she was riding collided with a streetcar.

  • She suffered near-fatal injuries to her spine, pelvis and hips,

  • and was bedridden for months afterward.

  • During her recovery,

  • she had a special easel attached to her bed

  • so she could practice painting techniques.

  • When she set to work,

  • she began to paint the world according to her own singular vision.

  • Over the course of her life,

  • she would establish herself as the creator and muse behind extraordinary art.

  • Though you may have met Kahlo's gaze before,

  • her work provides an opportunity to see the world through her eyes.

  • She painted friends and family,

  • still lives and spiritual scenes;

  • but it was her mesmerizing self-portraits

  • which first caught the world's attention.

  • In an early work,

  • "Self Portrait with Velvet Dress,"

  • the focus is on her strong brows, facial hair, long neck and formidable stare.

  • Such features remained,

  • but Kahlo soon began to present herself in more unusual ways.

  • For example,

  • "The Broken Column" uses symbolism,

  • religious imagery and a ruptured landscape to reveal her physical and mental state.

  • In 1928, Kahlo started dating fellow painter Diego Rivera.

  • They became lifelong partners and cultivated an eccentric celebrity.

  • Together, they traveled the world and dedicated themselves to art,

  • Communist politics and Mexican nationalism.

  • Kahlo and Rivera shared a deep affinity with Mexicanidad,

  • a movement which celebrated indigenous culture after the Revolution.

  • In her daily life, Kahlo wore traditional Tehuana dress

  • and immersed herself in native spirituality.

  • And in her work,

  • she constantly referenced Mexican folk painting,

  • incorporating its bright colors

  • and references to death, religion and nature.

  • With her imagery of giant floating flowers,

  • undulating landscapes, transplanted body parts and billowing clouds of demons,

  • Kahlo has often been associated with Surrealism.

  • But while surrealists used dreamlike images to explore the unconscious mind,

  • Kahlo used them to represent her physical body and life experiences.

  • Two of her most-explored experiences

  • were her physical disabilities and her marriage.

  • As a result of the bus accident,

  • she experienced life-long health complications

  • and endured many hospitalizations.

  • She often contemplated the physical and psychological effects

  • of disability in her work;

  • painting herself in agony,

  • recuperating from operations,

  • or including objects such as her back brace and wheelchair.

  • Meanwhile, her relationship with Rivera was tempestuous,

  • marked by infidelity on both sides.

  • At one point they even divorced,

  • then remarried a year later.

  • During this period,

  • she painted the double self-portrait "The Two Fridas,"

  • which speaks to the anguish of loss and a splintered sense of self.

  • The Frida to the left has a broken heart,

  • which drips blood onto her old-fashioned Victorian dress.

  • She symbolizes a version of the artist who is wounded by the past

  • but is also connected by an artery to a second self.

  • This Frida is dressed in Tehuana attire

  • and although she remembers Diego with the tiny portrait in her hand,

  • her heart remains intact.

  • Together, the two suggest a position caught between past and present,

  • individuality and dependency.

  • Kahlo died in 1954 at the age of 47.

  • In the years after her death,

  • she experienced a surge in popularity that has lasted to this day.

  • And although her image has proliferated,

  • Kahlo's body of work

  • reminds us that there are no simple truths

  • about the life, work and legacy of the woman behind the icon.

  • Rather, she put multiple versions of her reality on display

  • and provided us with a few entry-ways into the contents of her soul.

In 1925,

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B2 US TED-Ed frida rivera portrait physical painting

Frida Kahlo: The woman behind the legend - Iseult Gillespie

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    Julia Kuo posted on 2019/04/01
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