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By Jack Tomas
They say that to be a great artist one has to suffer. This is why all of the hipsters that sit around talking about being artists will never amount to anything. They’ve never suffered a moment’s discomfort or adversity. One of Mexico’s greatest painters was a woman who knew a lot about pain, both emotional and physical. She took all of that pain and created some of the most original art of the 20th century. I’m talking, of course, about Frida Kahlo.
Frida was born in 1907 in Mexico City, the daughter of a German immigrant photographer and a severe Mexican mother. From the beginning Frida was unconventional. She drank heavily, dressed how she wanted to, and sported a unibrow and mustache combo that would have made Tom Selleck and Bert the Muppet blush. When Frida was still a teenager, she was in a terrible bus accident that left her severely injured. Frida basically spent the rest of her life in constant excruciating pain. But she wasn’t going to let that stop her. Frida wanted to be a painter, but at that time no one took women artists seriously. She sought out Mexico’s most acclaimed artist for help: Diego Rivera. Diego was known for his politically charged murals depicting Mexican history and the struggles of the working class. He immediately saw that Frida was hella-talented and he took her under his greasy fat wing. The two of them would have one of the most tumultuous romances in the history of art. Diego was a notorious womanizer, this in spite of the fact that he looked like a fat slobbering turtle. He put Frida through hell, but they always ended up back together. If they had gone on Dr. Phil, he would have told her to dump Diego.
Frida’s paintings often feature self portraits, making her one of the art world’s most recognizable faces. Her paintings lacked Diego’s political posturing and were mostly about her own personal pain. This is what makes them so powerful. Whenever she’d break up with Diego, have a back surgery, have a miscarriage, or whatever she’d express it on canvas. Frida became well respected within Mexico but never moved out of Diego’s shadow in her lifetime. She spent the last few years of her life bed-ridden, suffering from the lifelong effects of her injuries. She died in 1954, at only 47 years old. In the years since her death Frida’s art has become wildly popular. Her genius is now recognized the world over and museums prominently display any Frida pieces they own. In 2002, Julie Taymor directed a Frida bio-pic starring Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina. If you haven’t seen it, do check it out. Though Salma is entirely too hot to be Frida, it is an amazing film.
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