June 12, 2009
I truly, truly love Frida Kahlo. If it weren’t for Mark Rothko’s paintings being a total spiritual experience to see in person, she would definitely be my “Favorite Artist.” If it weren’t for the total magical immersion of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the fictional auto-biography The Incantation of Frida K would be my favorite book. This favorite thing is tricky. I need sub-categories. “Favorite woman artist who was generally kickass and whose paintings haunt and fascinate me.” There we go. I feel a sort of kinship with Frida that I don’t feel for any other artist, partly because of her medical condition (not that I’m saying that what I go through can even compare, but that I can relate to starting behind the 8 ball, so to speak), and partly… I don’t know… there’s just something. She’s a kindred spirit for me. A cranky, self-righteous, queer kindred spirit.
I’ve never seen one of Frida’s works in person – I should get on that – but I’ve read every word by and about her that has crossed my path. Her diary is incredible and awe-inspiring, not just for her talent, but for the perfect ordinariness of it. As remarkable as she is and as unbelievable as her life and antics seem from a distance, she was just a woman living her life. Her messed-up revolutionary life. Drawing doodles.
The biography by Hayden Herrera (on which the movie is based) is of course, fabulous. A bit dry, as biographies of that caliber often are, but quite good reading on its own merits. The Incantation of Frida K by Kate Bravermann is an amazing, amazing character study. Having never known Frida personally, I can’t say if it’s accurate or not, but it certainly feels accurate. Lastly, Frida, by Bárbara Mujica, which I just finished reading, is a terrific blend of the two. It’s a fictional biography from the perspective of Frida’s younger sister, Cristina, which stays fairly close to the linear narrative of Frida’s life and also captures her larger-than-life personality from the point of view of someone she loved who felt totally overshadowed by her presence. I would definitely recommend this over Herrera’s biography for someone who was looking for a good book about Frida, but not necessarily interested in the nitty-gritty details.