All hail oil paints and that fabulous unibrow. Honestly, at this point, Frida Kahlo needs no formal introduction. She has posthumously become a feminist icon, a talented painter who, during her lifetime, created a prolific body of work but was professionally overshadowed by her alcoholic, philandering husband. While Diego Rivera was a very brilliant and well-respected artist, it is common knowledge that their relationship was beyond fucked up.
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6th, 1907 in Mexico City. Her foray into artistic expression would be spurred by a series of illnesses, which would leave her in poor health for most of her life. During childhood, she contracted polio at age six, stunting the growth of her right leg, leaving it several inches shorter than her left. She strategically wore long skirts throughout most of her adult life to cover this abnormality. At the age of eighteen, Frida was riding a city bus when it collided with a streetcar and a handrail impaled her through her hip, shattering her pelvis & spine and ripping off all her clothes. According to an account in Frida: A Biography, a house painter had also been riding the bus when the accident happened and a bag of gold powder from his painting kit split open during the collision and coated Frida's bleeding body.
Confined to a hospital bed for many weeks, and forced to wear a full-body cast for months afterwards, Frida began to paint as a way to entertain herself during the long recovery. It is during this time that she began experimenting with her now-famous self portraits. By all accounts, painting helped Frida cope with the pain of her injuries and gain a deep sense of self through her work.
Gradually, Frida recovered and she reconnected with Diego Rivera, whom she had met during her tenure as a student at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City where Rivera had been painting a mural. At her request, Rivera critiqued Frida's work and they married in 1930, after only a year of being together. They traveled often, mostly to accommodate different commissions Diego had accepted. They moved to San Francisco, New York and Detroit, all in the span of five years. Frida continued painting and soon garnered the attention of popular contemporaries, befriending the likes of Surrealist painter Andre Breton, Modernist artist Marc Chagall and Cubist Movement co-founder Pablo Picasso after showcasing her work at an exhibit in Paris in 1939.
That same year, she and Diego got divorced. Their marriage was a tumultuous one, riddled with infidelity from both parties, though an especially low point was the affair Rivera had with Frida's sister Cristina. Matters were further complicated by Frida's burning desire to bear children, even though numerous pregnancies all ended in miscarriage. They remarried in 1941 but little changed in their relationship. Frida & Diego lived in separate houses connected only by a rooftop bridge. Frida continued working but her health steadily declined and she died at the young age of 47.
Still, despite all the hardship, she enjoyed herself. She became a Communist and slept with Leon Trotsky. She danced, she partied, she wore fabulous clothes and tons of jewelry. She exhibited her work at galleries in New York and flirted with Georgia O'Keeffe. She celebrated her bum leg and her unibrow. She didn't give a fuck what anyone thought of her. Above all, she worked. She worked consistently and her work fulfilled her-- emotionally, spiritually and intellectually.