Frida Kahlo has always fascinated me. She lived a tragically short life, full of pain, yet her strength of character and often raucous humour always shone through. She was easily recognised by the vibrant and colourful Mexican folk attire that she favoured.
Her traumatic life was reflected in her art. Many of her paintings are uncomfortable to look at, self-portraits of her miscarriage and symbolic images of the torment she suffered from her consistent illnesses.
Frida’s marriage to artist Diego Rivera was tempestuous. They both had affairs, yet couldn’t live without one another. Nicknamed ‘The elephant and the dove’ due to their striking physical extremes, they were an unconventional pair. In addition to being artists, they were communists and very much a part of the intellectual scene that was flourishing in Mexico City in the late forties and early fifties.
The couple were the hosts of many flamboyant parties and had a fascinating array of friends active in both artistic and political circles. Frida also loved animals and had quite a menagerie which, over the years included a spider monkey, a fawn, dogs, cats and various birds.
The couple lived in The Blue House, Frida’s former family home, built by her father and situated in the area of Coyoacan. In 1958, after her death a few years previously, the house was turned into a museum by Diego. Ever since I had seen the movie, ‘Frida’, read about her life and been to exhibitions in London and Toronto, I had dreamt about visiting the house.
At last the time had come - I made it to Mexico City. It was a sunny Sunday morning and I took the metro to leafy Coyoacan. By 9.55 am, I was first in line to buy my ticket for The Blue House otherwise known as La Casa Azul.
I wandered through the house, taking my time to examine the paintings, books and personal effects that had belonged to Frida and Diego. I felt the spirit of Frida within the walls. It was easy to imagine the gatherings that had taken place in this bohemian dwelling.
The house is crammed with art created by other artists, as well as the couple themselves. The kitchen is brightly painted yellow and blue in traditional Mexican style, displaying bowls and utensils originating from Oaxaca and Guanajuato. Diego’s hat, jacket and work clothes are casually hanging from a rack in his bedroom. The studio looks as though it is awaiting Frida’s return, an assortment of paints in small bottles lined up neatly next to an easel.
Most poignant is Frida’s bedroom, also the room where she died. Under the canopy of the bed hangs a mirror, which was used by Frida to paint self-portraits during the many years that she was ill or recovering from surgery and restricted to bed. Her wheelchair sits beside an easel with an unfinished painting resting on it.
The striking courtyard is a cobalt blue sanctuary, complete with a trickling fountain. Pre-Columbian statues and dazzlingly painted pots surround the walls. Lush green vegetation adds to the riot of colours. The bright sunshine intensifies the overall image. A cat sits watching visitors pass by. Frida would have approved.
SEARCH BY TAGS:
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!