What’s with the collective fascination with Frida Kahlo, anyway? How did Mexico’s obsession with the artist turn her into one of the most famous global icons of all time? We know so much about her, so much of her life has been documented, and yet it’s like no one ever really knew what was going on inside her mind. The alluring, dark mystery that surrounds her is beyond intriguing: it transcends cultures, time and space.
She represents both the light and the dark: she was born to survive pain and tragedy, and simultaneously embodies universal beauty. She's the Divine Feminine, she's Mother Nature, she's all animals, she's the four elements.
Maybe we love Frida so much because she's the story of Mexico, told in one woman. It's like Academy Award-winning Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro recently said: “No one loves life more than we (Mexicans) do, because we are so conscious about death."
We forget how much she had already suffered before she met Diego, her life's "accident", as she later referred to him. She contracted polio at the age of 6 and as a teenager survived a bus crash that left her in severe pain for the rest of her life. She underwent several spinal surgeries, none of which fully healed her.
She created hundreds of paintings as a professional artist, most of which are self portraits. Interestingly, no one has ever associated Frida's name with vanity: there's an underlying basic human truth about her, even if she rarely spoke of it. Frida was a lone wolf, which made her incredibly self-aware. "I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best."
She was the unapologetic woman. She married Diego Rivera against her parents wishes. She drank and smoked. She created pieces of work that were feminist and controversial. Her marriage suffered continuous affairs and heartache, culminating with Diego cheating on her with her sister. She was left with no choice but to counter these events with art, and (thankfully) committed her own series of infidelities, both with men and women.
When you visit the Casa Azul in Mexico City, Frida’s home in Coyoacán, you’ll see her art studio, her bedrooms, kitchen, the gardens, the clothes she wore and of course, her art. In every step of the way, you can see her spirit and intensity, the feminist icon that so many people, Mexican or not, will forever adore.