Finding Solace in Self – Frida Kahlo

Swapna Narayanan

A recent interaction with a close friend on how gritty and determined a woman can be while being vulnerable and soft on another side, led me to think of some women who depict this duality with ease.

The whole premise of Eyra – all women have this multiple facets within and as needs arise in her life, she brings to the fore the most suitable temperament to handle the need.

Equipped and ready, very similar to a swiss knife. 

Let me walk you through the life of one such artist who right from a very young age tried, at the risk of sounding clichéd, making lemonade out of the lemons that life threw at her. 

She also went a step ahead and added a dash of colour to her lemonade.

Frida Kahlo was an artist par excellence known for her open, unabashed and truthful portrayal. A painter, a writer of poems and letters, Frida wielded her brush and pen to pour her heart out, where verbal conversations failed her. They enabled her to bring out her angst, her unhappiness, her dismay and excruciating pain.

Frida was in pain, deep pain.

She always wanted to join the medical profession and become a doctor. A dream that was dashed by an ill-fated accident that, ironically, made her a medical patient for life. 

While realising that her dream cannot be achieved, quickly accepting that fact, she leaned on to her other passion for art. And used her recovery time in dabbling with colours.

Only thing is recovery was never complete for her. The impact of the accident was deep and health issues were myriad. 

But for Frida, she was the hero of her story. Most of her works were self-portraits, depicting her various phases of life. 

While her adolescence was marred with health issues, her youth was seeped in art with her marriage to a famous mural artist – Diego Rivera. Living largely in the US where he was offered work, Frida went through a phase of grasping, learning the nuances, and fine-tuning her own art which still was limited to small sheets. 

Has any woman ever found peace with ease? 

A deep yearning to go back to her hometown, a broken heart due to a philandering husband, a plethora of health issues were all problems that limited her. Yet, she withstood them all by finding solace in art, her love affairs and her own self. 

Frida did not believe in being flawless. Her unibrow and thin moustached self-portraits clearly sent out a message – accept me as I am.  Each of her piece of art – whether written or painted – depicted her completeness within. Her art held all her sorrow and pain. Her letters and poems gave us direct access to her emotions, thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams. Unlike her paintings that could have different meanings, words are always straight to the point.

While she was vulnerable, broken and hurt on one hand, she was equally strong, empowered and determined on the other. Her poetry brought out all that was within her, with an élan: 

I’m not going to ask you to tell me how pretty I am,

even if it’s a lie or that you write me anything nice.

Nor will I ask you to call me to tell me

how your day was or tell me you miss me.

I’m not going to ask you to thank me for everything I do for you,

for you to worry about me when my moods are down

and of course I will not ask you to support me in my decisions.

I’m not going to ask you to listen to me when I have a thousand

stories to tell you.

I’m not going to ask you to do anything,

not even to stay by my side forever.

Because if I have to ask you,

I do not want it anymore.

In the words of famous novelist and art critic of Mexico, Carlos Feuntus, ‘Frida found a way of painting pain – of permitting us to see pain and in so doing, reflecting the pain of the world. She is a figure that represents the conquest of adversity, that represents how – against hell and high water – a person is able to make their life and reinvent themselves and make that life be personally fulfilling. Frida Kahlo in that sense is a symbol of hope, of power, of empowerment, for a variety of sectors of our population who are undergoing adverse conditions.’

In a world that you live, who can solve your problems, hear your woes, feel your angst? 

Who else, but your own self. 

Maybe one can find solace from one’s pain in one’s own self, just as Frida did. 

*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*

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