15 November 2016

Frida Kahlo - The Two Fridas

From the series - little great stories of artists

I’ve always been fascinated by the life of Frida Kahlo.

Frida’s passionate, disturbed, and violent brushstroke reflects her own life, which is deeply linked to the famous Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera. Sarah M. Lowe, author of a critic essay about Frida Kahlo’s paintings, writes: “Art and love melt in her mind; there aren’t edges between her and Rivera”. Love and art mix up like the colors of her palette, they crash and they melt together. The art of Frida is Frida. It’s life, death, happiness and pain. We know that she suffered from poliomielite and that an accident at the age of 18 made her invalid. We know about the stormy relationship with Rivera, we know about the countless betrayals, argues, and the deep and ancestral love that used to keep them bounded.

What I’m going to talk about is a spiritual travel into Frida’s art. I especially would like to examine the theme of the double,  and the relationship with Diego Rivera through the artwork “Les dos Fridas”. (The two Fridas)

This painting is the symbol of a crucial period of her life and career: the split up with Diego. “Why do I call him my Diego? He’s never been and never will be mine. He belongs to himself”.

The painting talks itself. There are two Fridas dressed differently, holding each other hand, they are related  by a vein connecting their two beating hearts, one of which is irreversible injured. The Frida on the right side is the woman loved by Diego, she wears traditional mexican clothes, and  jealously holds the portrait of her love. The other Frida, on the left side, is the woman abandoned by Diego, she wears European clothes, which represent her travel to the avant-garde’s mainland, her heart is broken and the vein starting from the picture of Diego and going through the two hearts is interrupted, cut from a pair of scissors. The artist internal disagreement is emphasized by the specular and surreal figure of the two women. It’s a solemn dialogue between the pain of the abandon and the awareness that every break is an emblem of innovation, that’s why she wears European clothes, symbol of emancipation. The imaginary nature of the space is a constant element in Kahlo’s paintings, where dream and surrealism are the stylistic ways to illustrate her own reality. Frida uses self-portraits to explore the hidden feelings of her existence. Let’s imagine the real Frida reflecting in the mirror and doubling herself on the canvas, a canvas acting as the theatre of her internal diatribes. Art works to show the real essence and the agony of human beings, and in this particular painting, it shows those of the protagonist, who needs to have a specular figure  showing off her own different natures by her side.



“I must have been six years old when I had an intense experience of an imaginary friendship with a little girl .. roughly my own age. On the window of my old room, facing Allende Street, I used to breathe on one of the top panes. And with my finger I would draw a “door”…Through that “door” I would come out, in my imagination, and hurriedly with immense happiness, I would cross all the field I could see until I reached a dairy store called PINZON… Through the “O” in PINZON I entered and descended impetuously to the entrails of the earth, where “my imaginary friend” always waited for me. I don’t remember her appearance or her color [sic]. But I do remember her joyfulness – she laughed a lot. Soundlessly. She was agile and danced as if she were weightless. I followed her in every movement and while she danced, I told her my secret problems, Which ones? I can’t remember. But…from my voice she knew all about my affairs. When I came back to the window, I would enter through the same door I had drawn on the glass. When? How long had I been with “her”? I don’t know. It could have been a second or thousands of years… I was happy. I would erase the “door” with my hand and it would “disappear”. I ran with my secret and my joy to the farthest corner of the patio of my house, and always to the same place, under a cedron tree, I would shout and laugh Amazed to be…Alone with my great happiness with the very vivid memory of the little girl. It has been 34 years since I lived that magical friendship and every time I remember it it comes alive and grows more and more inside my world.”

PINZON, 1950. Frida Kahlo.

I admire Frida as a woman as well as an artist, no one else has been a precursor of modernity like her. She was emancipated; she married an older man and they split up to marry again the year after, she had unfaithfully relationships with both men and women, she was a famous painter appreciated by her contemporaries, she was strong and determinate, she lived together with her pain and turned it into art. Charismatic, clever, ironic, charming.

The Two Fridas can also be interpreted in a different way, disconnected from the relationship with Diego (even if they were very close to each other).

I think the double portrait represents the need of the artist to highlight the duplicity of her soul. A part of it is connected to her culture and traditions, and the other is desirous of emancipation and adventure, inclined to experimentation, a Frida who dresses differently, maybe the one who just come back from Europe, a new Frida. The amazing extract from her diary shows her primitive duality, we read about a Frida who sees herself doubled into another child, happy, “I remember her cheerfulness” says the artist. Ambivalence is the symptom of a complex personality; the sick Frida, and the carefree and dancing Frida, the loved Frida and the abandoned Frida, the traditionalist and the avant-garde woman, these are all faces of the same medal.

di Elisa Martino – art curator