Artists Past: Frida Kahlo

Image via TATE

Image via TATE

Raquel Gonzalez Lopez, Writer

We’ve all heard about Frida Kahlo in some way or another. A famous, well known, Mexican artist. However, several pieces of information were overlooked in her life. Of course, we shouldn’t look into every breath she took, but instead acknowledge a few important points in her life, but why should we? Not only will it show us that artists weren’t just artists, but humans too, who have made mistakes in their past, just as the rest of us. However, Frida Kahlo is a special case. Many assume she was straight for marrying a man, however, this couldn’t have been more wrong. Frida Kahlo was an open bisexual.  

Frida Kahlo is a famous woman in history. Born in 1907 in Mexico City, she’s well known for her art, specifically her self-portraits, but also for her famous iconic look, her unibrow. However, looking beyond her art, you can discover she suffered a terrible disease at the age of six, polio. She never recovered from it, causing her right leg to shrivel and lay in agony. Kids from her school mocked her disease, continuously calling her “Frida la coja,” meaning Frida the grimp. Even with her conditions, she never stopped pursuing her interest in becoming a doctor. In 1922 Kahlo got accepted into Escuela Nacional Preparatoria along with 35 other students, but she dropped out around 1925. She was a marvels student, who managed to speak Spanish, English, and German at the age of 16.  So the curriculum wasn’t difficult for her whatsoever, so what was the reason for leaving? 

She was involved in a devastating bus accident at the age of 18. While Frida was making her way back home, she took the bus with her first partner, Alejandro Gómez Arias, who she met at her college. They were at the time sending passionate love letters to each other. They got off from their original bus to look for an umbrella that Frida had lost, but soon boarded a second bus. While waiting for their arrival at their destination, the bus driver attempted to pass a passing trolley but instead collided with it. The trolley ended up dragging the bus, many instantly died. Kahlo survived, but was impaled around her pelvis by a handrail. The rail ended up puncturing her abdomen and uterus and left her spine broken in three different places. Her leg was broken in eleven places, along with other major injuries. As for Alejandro, he only received minor injuries and brought Kahlo to the hospital.

Kahlo stayed a month at the hospital to undergo surgeries. Even after the surgery, there was still lingering pain left in her leg, leaving her no choice but to desert her dreams. She was dismissed from the hospital but was bound to her bed at the time. Because of her slow recovery, she took interest in art, after all, art was her second interest.  She was self-taught and frequently studied “art of the Old Masters.” During the same year, she made her very first self-portrait and gave it to her partner at the time. 

She soon reconnected with Diego Rivera in 1928. They first met in 1922 when Kahlo was working on a project in high school. He was supportive of her work and over time, they both fell in love and decided to get married in 1929. They divorced in 1940. The reason for their divorce was heavily justified. During their marriage, they tried conceiving a child but due to her bus accident, she was infertile and suffered several miscarriages. This somehow led Diego Rivera to cheat on Kahlo. As for Kahlo, she did the same thing, but with a woman. They both found out about their secret love affairs, but remained together, why? Diego Rivera didn’t mind the affair as long as it was a woman, he even encouraged it. He soon sang a different tune when he discovered the other males she had had an affair with. Kahlo also dealt with the woman that Diego cheated on her with by being with her instead. This still soon led to the divorce when Diego Rivera had an affair with Kahlo’s sister

Many can argue which one was worse, but even through all the affairs, they remarried once again in 1940, the same year they divorced. They ruined when they realized they still had feelings towards one another, but it didn’t take long for them to cheat on one another again. Because of this, Kahlo became depressed and soon died in 1954. Rumor had it it was suicide, but the cause of death was revealed to be a pulmonary embolism. 

Diego Rivera remarried in 1955 with Emma Hurtado, who happened to be his agent. He died at the age of 70 in 1957 and was cremated. Diego Rivera’s ashes were mixed with a small portion of Kahlo’s in their burial. Kahlo’s legacy still lives to this day and is the face of women’s creativity.