“Don’t think I will forget. There is no time left. You didn’t understand what I am. I am love, I am pleasure, I am essence, I am an idiot, I am an alcoholic, I am tenacious, I am a painter. I am, I simply am. What are you then that I must bear your offences? To continue being the idiot believing your crap and accepting you are a god. You are a god, pretending to be a pagan deity. Keep your filthy life. You are a shit.”
Frida Kahlo penned these words in an unsent letter to her unfaithful husband, artist Diego Rivera, and they open a window into her soul. She is the idiot, the painter, and the woman who lived and loved deeply. Her brushes and paints were a refuge against the existential lashings of life.
The wealth of opinions surrounding Frida has transformed her into a central character in popular culture. Her Blue House nestled in the heart of the Pre-Hispanic neighborhood Coyoacan has became synonymous of her unibrow, delicate hands holding a cigar, and her chest cast that served as a canvas. Not far from this property, we find another home where she found love and heartbreak, and where a soviet refugee discovered Mexico’s most prized treasure: Leon Trotsky’s Museum.
There are multiple roads one can take to discover Kahlo. In her paintings and letters, she deposited all of her emotions, experiences, and thoughts on the reality that surrounded her. Her recipes were a fusion of Mexican gastronomy and the surrealist life she led. There is another route we can take, through the lens of photographers.
The photographs of Frida Kahlo take us back to a Mexico lost under the pressure of modernity. The decades of the thirties and forties show a country escaping its violent destiny, licking its wounds after a bloody revolution, a country where art was the glue that helped create a unified nation. Her portraits connect us with her life, her joys, and sufferings. Some of her photographs are ingrained in the public psyche, while others are hidden gems showing a Frida never seen before.