Here & there: Frida Kahlo and Lent

Crowds outside the Frida Kahlo Museum also known as "Casa Azul." Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico, March 29, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Kat Dayton, St. George News

FEATURE — For many in the Christian world, Thursday marked the end of Lent. The end of forty days (not counting Sundays) of sacrificing something to show devotion and self-control. And maybe a little change.

Frida Kahlo’s upstairs art studio, with canvas, wheelchair and paint supplies, in the second floor of “Casa Azul.” Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico, March 29, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Kat Dayton, St. George News

Some give up chocolate. Some give up gossiping. The point is to give up a vice, to avoid temptation, like Jesus did in the desert for forty days and forty nights before his ministry.

Thursday also just so happened to be the day I visited the “Casa Azul” in Mexico City, the once home, and now museum, of Frida Kahlo. When you think of Frida, you may think venerable Mexican artist, Marxist and wife of Diego Rivera. And you probably think unibrow.

But you may not think of Lent. Here’s why you should.

Frida Kahlo gave up something more than chocolate or more than gossip in becoming the woman we all know. She gave up her childhood dream of becoming a doctor. In return, she became one of the most iconic Mexicans, if not one of the most iconic women, in history.

From an early age, Frida was drawn to medicine. Perhaps it was her childhood contraction of polio or perhaps it was innate, but whatever the reason, her father recognized young Frida’s passion and gifted her a microscope.

That microscope became her constant companion – on nature hikes with her father and wherever else she could take it – analyzing the world around her at the most cellular level.

Then tragedy struck. At age eighteen Frida was gravely injured when a streetcar crashed into the bus she was riding. Metal and bodies converged. And in the gruesome mess, a metal rail pierced Frida’s torso, breaking her spine and pelvis.

She was lucky to survive. But she would never be the same. And she would never be a doctor.

She spent the next three years recuperating from the accident. During her long days and weeks and years of convalescing, she painted.

She painted her suffering. She painted her loneliness. She painted her disappointment.

Even after her convalesce, Frida was never completely whole again. In addition to the imprint polio left upon her, one leg shorter than the other, she had to wear corsets the rest of her life because her spine was never strong enough to fully support her.

But instead of letting the corsets define her, she defined them.

She painted the corsets with vivid designs. She incorporated them into her fashion. She even painted herself wearing corsets in several of her self-portraits.
And once she painted on them, dressed them and painted them, they were no longer something that made her weak, but rather something that made her strong. And made her, her.

For me, the Frida lesson of Lent lies here.

It lies in the transformations that come as a result of how we choose to respond to the things in life we are forced to change. How Frida transformed herself into the powerful artist who left impact on the world.

The giving up of something voluntarily, even a worthy vice, may not be as of much value as we think. How much can forty days without chocolate or gossip or even Facebook really change a person?

But, in contrast, how can embracing what we are forced to give up – the difficulties thrust upon us – change us for the better? Those that are unwelcome and unexpected. A lay-off, a loss of health or the unwanted end of a relationship.

Had Frida Kahlo not embraced – and then owned – what she was forced to give up the world would not have her art. The world would not have her passion. The world would not have her legacy of strength and optimism and hope.

That seems to be the point of Lent – embracing the change forced upon us and using it to make us better. Using it to become our best selves.

So today, Easter, a religious holiday, let us also keep celebrating Lent and the changes that await us all.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected] | [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.


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1 Comment

  • Hans-Jürgen April 26, 2018 at 6:55 am

    Frida Kahlo exhibition “I don’t paint my dreams” extended till January 2019

    Due to the success of the exhibition since the opening and by large request, “I don’t paint my dreams”, the Frida Kahlo replica paintings exhibition presented by the Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund in Baden-Baden has been extended through January 6th 2019.

    The exhibition delivers exactly what the title says by recreating Frida Kahlo’s reality, not her dreams, but her world as she perceived it, and as she wanted the observers to see it.
    Based on over 35 years of Frida Kahlo studies, Dr. Remund and Mr. Gehrke are showing some of Frida Kahlo paintings never before seen in Europe, vintage photos, historical videos and large size photos of Frida Kahlo. The exhibition surface of the museum has been extended to host the more than 100 replica paintings, and overall over 400 exhibits.
    A Mexican environment has been recreated with the museum collection of Mexican retablos and Alebrijes, fantastic animals created in the 30’s in Mexico.

    The exhibition can be followed by means of a catalogue in 4 languages that reveals the background and secrets behind each painting and allows the visitors to be part of Frida Kahlo’s state of mind and world.

    The Kunstmuseum is the only institution in the world that received the authorization from Mexico to replicate all the paintings of Frida Kahlo. The replica-paintings are hand painted by master artists, and the only difference with the originals is the label on the back of each painting: “Licensed replica from ©Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008”.

    The exhibition will last till January 6th 2019
    Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund
    Guterbahnhofstr 9
    76532 Baden-Baden
    Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00- 17:00
    Tel #: 0049 152 55633001

    The Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund is a privately owned monographic art museum founded in 2008. The objective of the Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund is to offer the visitors a complete view of the entire work of the Frida Kahlo, thus allowing to follow the artist’s development from the very early works to her maturity. The paintings shown in the Museum are hand-painted licensed replicas from ©Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008. The Kunstmuseum is the only museum in the world to have obtained the authorization to replicate all Frida Kahlo paintings from the copyright owners of the artist works.

    The founders of the Art Museum are Hans-Jürgen Gehrke and Prof. Dr. Mariella C. Remund. Both are art patrons, collectors and passionate art historians. They have spent over 25 years in executive positions in multinational corporations and academic organizations in Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, USA, Spain, Mexico, South America and China.

    Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund
    Guterbahnhofstr 9
    76532 Baden-Baden
    Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00- 17:00
    Closed on December 24, 25 and 31
    Tel #: 0049 152 55633001

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