Artist Habits: Creativity Builds in the Curve of the Spine

Frida Kahlo’s life ended before it began. Redefining beauty through her art and attitude, Frida becomes increasingly relevant in our aesthetic driven society.

I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality

Frida Kahlo was born to an unhappy marriage. She was born with polio, which graced her with two legs to stand on, uneven in width. To compensate, Frida picked up boxing. To box and to fight, to box and to fight– until life gave her her way.

In 1925, the bus that 18 year old teenage Frida was riding with her boyfriend collided with a train. An account by her boyfriend said that when he discovered her after the moment of impact, Frida was nude but covered in a gold powder that caused bystanders to cry, “the ballerina, the ballerina“. The birth of the Frida Kahlo we know now as an artist truly started with the moment that the bus broke down and she began.
 In the photo: “El Autobus”Frida’s painting of her last moment on the bus, done in 1929. She is the woman dressed unlike the others, on the far right.)
Prior to her accident, Frida Kahlo had been studying medicine, a student at one of the top high schools in Mexico. After that day, a broken spine, foot, pelvis, collar bone, leg and shoulder, a pierced abdomen later, Frida began to draw self-portraits and would continue to do so for the next three years, as she lay bedridden in recovery.
 In the photo: Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress.
The portrait above was  done in 1926, only a year after the accident. Perhaps the most notable thing about Frida’s art, other than Frida herself, is its unabashed embrace of her nontraditional beauty. Frida’s endless eyebrows, almond eyes, large hands, pronounced cupid’s bow, sharp jowls and even the feathering on her upper lip, are never obscured and never hidden in her self-portraits. Frida, at least in her paintings, is never shy.
Frida is also different from the modern individual. There is no arguing that she is from a different time, but certainly, confidence in one’s appearance cannot have died away in only two or three generations. Still yet, Frida is not blindly assured either, and took immaculate care in her display. Due to her polio and unevenly shaped legs, she would wear distractingly colorful and long skirts. For her wedding to Diego Rivera, she recalls, “I borrowed petticoats, a blouse, and a rebozo from the maid, fixed the special apparatus on my foot so it wouldn’t be noticeable, and we were married”.
A celebration of Frida’s art is just as much a consideration of the artistic elements as it is a cultural breakthrough. Rarely do artists depict themselves in self-portraits and rarely do they include features considered unattractive. Frida did both, to an extent that pleased her.
Around the hot and humid summer of 1934, Diego Rivera had an affair with Frida’s younger sister Cristina. Though in pain, Frida’s actions after the affair also serve as a testament to her confidence. To retaliate against Diego, Frida rejected the native Mexican garments that pleased him and instead began to wear her hair short, with western style clothing. New paintings featured this, but her physical appearance did not change. Even with the failure of her marriage, Frida refused to define herself as the problem.
270272  In the photo: Self-Portrait with Curly Hair – Frida Kahlo (1935 – completed)
Between disability, accident and failure, Frida Kahlo certainly isn’t a perfect woman. She also cheated on Diego, sulked, and exercised her volatile temper often. But through her art, and through what appears to be her perspective on herself, those issues are negligible. Even more so than any of that, her appearance is to be celebrated, not hidden or fixed. Frida embodies what may have become the opposite of our attitude today. We seem to be willing to bend and to fix, while Frida was willing only to fight and to box, to box and to fight. It can’t possibly be said that one is superior to the other, but there’s no doubt Frida Kahlo experienced great misfortune in her lifetime and thrived through it all.

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About the Author /

Born in Beijing but raised everywhere else, Yudi is interested in spreading social awareness through innovation and design. Her passions include painting, creative writing and landscape photography. She is currently an undergraduate student at the University of California Berkeley.

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