Frida Kahlo vs. a Healthy Spine

Last weekend I went to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit. Inspired by a look at a few of her prints some time ago, at a Mexican food restaurant in New Jersey; I knew I wanted to check out her work as a celebration of the artist’s birth 100 years ago.

The show was well thought out, had a nice flow to it and represented the whole of her work; in fact, you could say very Zen-like.

The exhibition began with photography; it was there I got to know her beauty. There was an audio accompaniment that was very informative. I learned at fifteen she was injured in a train/bus accident, a piece of iron punctured her body, and her spine, collarbone, ribs were shattered.

If we think back, medicine was not as sophisticated then; so, these types of injuries were not easily rectified. She subsequently had thirty operations and was never without pain after her accident. It was then that she began painting.

Because her life had been so drastically altered she depicted some of her disturbing life in amazing yet turbulent works of art. The theme of her work usually depicted Mexican folklore, life or self-portraits. She claimed to use herself as a subject because she knew herself best. Her work mixes symbolism, surrealism and realism and hone in on her astute mind and higher knowledge.

The feature of many of her works of art made the spine a prominent fixture. As a girl, about her age, I suffered whiplash that left me in pain for years. So slight was my injury as compared to hers; still once you have a spinal injury or back/neck pain you will never be the same. A constant aching and degree of pain may follow you through years of your life. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to find yoga. After years of practicing yoga, relaxation and getting tons of bodywork I am almost free of any spinal pain. But, it wasn’t easy and it takes tons of time to heal the spine.

When I saw her painting, The Broken Column, it shows her naked body being supported by a broken column, being held together by a brace, with nails piercing her body in pain, tears flowing from her eyes. Another painting has flames and rods coming out of her spine and there is no head attached. The Two Fridas paints her self -separated in two bodies sharing her internal organs.

As the exhibit moves on you can start to connect to how she must have been tortured. Even with such great talent and vision she had no relief. If painting brought her joy it was only temporary; as her body aged it deteriorated as a result of the trauma it experienced previously.

She looked to the universe as she painted scenes of heaven and earth, religious leaders, ancient ruins and warriors as if she was trying to discover or make peace with the meaning of life. The depth of her soul bled on the canvas showing all her complexity, vulnerability and confusion. The pain she must have endured as she kept herself engaged in creating art for all the world to view.

I had so many thoughts running through my head as I left her exhibit. I felt this deep compassion and sorrow for her life and plight. I was overwhelmed by her skill, drive and communication.

As time has passed, I returned to the images of her spine and all the pain she expressed through her art. I remembered how THANKFUL I am for my health, my spine and the ability to move freely through my life pain free. What a blessing to be reminded of any day, any time.

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