Frida Kahlo | The Thorned Princess

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 01:43 AM EDT, 18 May 2011

"I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best." - Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, Self-PortraitMEXICO - Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo are two painters who lived extraordinary lives defying conventional standards of conduct and mores of their day.  Frida was born on July 6, 1907 and died on July 13, 1954 after a long and protracted illness.

Although Frida did not consider herself a surrealist painter, her paintings portray otherwise.  Within the universe of her canvases she depicts her emotional and physical pain with exquisite poignancy. Even someone with a cursory knowledge of surrealism can easily decipher the objects of her derision and disgust.

Her physical pain was the result of a trolley accident in which she suffered serious injuries, including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. Also, an iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus, which seriously damaged her reproductive ability." (Source: Wikipedia)

As a result, by 1944 Frida's health had deteriorated to such an extent that she had to wear a steel corset Broken Column, 1944for several months.  The straps of the corset held her spine in place but its rigidity left her unable to move and only able to stand upright or lie supine.

The portrait to the left depicts her damaged spine. The nails piercing her face and body represent the physical pain she has endured since her accident. The larger nail piercing her heart represents the emotional pain caused by Diego.

Her relationship with the famed Diego Rivera was renown for its volatility, dramatic arguments and public altercations. Diego had a larger than life personality and was of immense stature and girth.  He was also a philanderer.

Diego's infidelity caused Frida immense suffering.  In response Frida would often engage in extra-marital affairs during their many separations. One of her more famous relationship was with the famed dancer and performer  Josephine Baker.  Frida's inability to completely sever her relationship with Diego Rivera is in my observation symptomatic of an abused woman.

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Published: 18 May 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

Steven Stosny, a counselor and the founder of CompassionPower, an anger and violence management program which treats people convicted of abuse in the home call this cycle a "pendulum of pain."  Although Frida and Diego's relationship was emotionally abusive  and not physically, it none the less followed the same pattern.

Abuse victims will "leave out of either feThe Two Fridas Kahloar, anger or resentment," Stosny said. "But then, after the fear, anger or resentment begins to subside, they feel guilt, shame, anxiety, and that takes them back."

After a violent incident, there is often a "honeymoon period" during which the abuser may apologize profusely, give the victim gifts and persuade the victim to stay, experts say. But when that period is over, the abuser may once again reoffend. " (Source: CNN)

All of these complexities can serve as a distraction from her talent or can augment and flesh out the breadth of her humanity and her struggle to define herself in the patriarchal society into which she was born; and the male dominated field of painting which she chose as a career.  We shall never know but the 2002 biopic goes a long way toward illuminating her struggles.

The eponymous film Frida, directed by Julie Taymor, in which Salma Hayek portrayed the artist with Alfred Molina playing Diego is based on Hayden Herrera's book. The film grossed $58 million worldwide and worth seeing to get a full picture of the nuances of this complicated woman's extraordinary life.

Watch the official trailer of the film "Frida." (Click here to view)

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