So, even though two weeks away from my “desk” has resulted in a landslide of stuff to do on my return (pre-holiday me HATES post-holiday me’s guts and clearly wanted to make her suffer), my voyage to Mexico has left me buzzed, refreshed and generally more madly in love with feminist pin-up Frida Kahlo than ever.
While in Mexico City I naturally dragged my travelling companion down to the south of the enormous, sprawling city to the little blue house where Frida and her Diego once lived and loved. Even though it was miles away and we queued for a good two hours to get in (it’s fine, I went to the Mexican Wrestling with him in the evening to make up for it), it was worth every second. Behind the startling azure walls lies Frida’s legacy to us: a passage of perfectly-preserved rooms (including her bedroom, her kitchen, her studio), a gallery of her work and even a little museum exhibiting some of her signature Tehuana skirts and bodice-braces.
Frida, as most people probably know, spent much of her life in physical and emotional pain, recovering from illnesses and injuries. A bout of childhood polio, for example, left her with one leg dramatically thinner than the other. She married the much older Diego twice, having divorced him for his womanising. Hers was not a happy life by all accounts, but feminists, artists and historians remain obsessed with her. Are we miserable bastards agog at the misery of an exotic and tragic woman? Well, I’d like to think there was a bit more to it than voyeurism. For me, it’s the way she painted herself. She painted herself as broken (in her awful spinal bodice that kept her literally whole), as two people, as a wounded deer, as a courtesan of death…her originality just hasn’t been matched, I don’t think. I’m no art critic, but I continually find Frida’s darkness mesmerising. The way her talent eventually overshadowed that of her famous husband is also incredibly gratifying for those of us struggling with the old glass ceiling right now.
To be immersed so fully (if you ignored the numerous grinning idiots with selfie sticks) in the quite palpable pain of such an important woman was pretty mind-blowing. The title of the book I bought in the gift shop (of course, there was a gift shop) is entitled “I Paint My Reality”. When you study the haunting nature of some of the work on display in La Casa Azul (one particular piece that depicts Kahlo’s own miscarriage will probably linger), you realise how very, very dark that reality must have been at times. And yet, she translated that darkness into a kind of beauty.
There will not be a blog on the Mexican Wrestling match we attended that evening. Some things just have to be seen to be believed.