Finding Release in Art

The play "Frida Kahlo" reveals a complicated, amazing life

By Dena Burroghs
Published on LatinoLA: May 11, 2002

Finding Release in Art

If you would have asked me a couple days ago who Frida Kahlo was, I could have only told you three things about her: that she was a painter, that she loved to do self portraits, and that she had thick black eyebrows.

If you ask me now, I could go on for a while telling you all that I have learned about her complicated, yet amazing life, and how impressively expressive her art is.

I had planned to go to the theater to see a play about Frida, and not wanting to be completely ignorant of the subject, I started reading her biography. The more I read, the more I loved her. I learned that each of her paintings is really a description of her life and her pain. As she said it once: ??I never painted dreams. I painted my reality.?

Her painting "The Broken Column", for example, really fulfills the saying ?a picture is worth a thousand words", once you learn that Frida survived a bus accident that left her with a fractured spine, a crushed pelvis, a broken foot, and a life condemned to physical pain. (see image at: http://www.lasmujeres.com/fridakahloart/brokena.html).

Her apparent obsession with paintings depicting births, miscarriages, and death, is easier to understand once you realize that due to that accident she was unable to bear children. I am particularly stricken by "My birth", painted in 1932, a self-portrait of her own birth. (see image at: http://members.aol.com/fridanet/artwork.htm).

Her work also reflects her bisexuality, as well as her complicated relationship and marriage to the famous artist Diego Rivera.

Frida was, and is, an example of how a troubled soul can find release in art. She left us a biography painted on canvas, and even in her death she is an inspiration.

The play "Frida Kahlo" is showing at a small theater in Los Angeles, The Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 Fourth Street, Los Angeles CA 90057, and it is Ruben Amavizca?s effort to present Frida?s perspective of her own life.

In my opinion, the play is factual and checked out well with what I had read in the biographies. It is quite a dramatic performance, with a lot of crying and elevated voices as part of the act. The performance is done by only four actors, who play Frida, her sister, Diego Rivera and Judas, this last a fictional character functioning at times as Frida?s loud conscience, and at times as the story narrator.

The sadness of Frida?s life is thoroughly described. Maybe there was some room to show more of the good moments of her life, like the fact that Frida got to socialize and host for prominent people (i.e. the Rockefellers), or the fact that she got to teach painting to people who became known as ?Fridos?. Then again, maybe happiness was really not a big part of Frida?s own perspective.

If you would like to attend this play, I would encourage you to read up on Frida?s life before you go. Two good web sites I found are ?The World of Frida Kahlo? (http://members.aol.com/fridanet/kahlo.htm) and the Smithsonian Archives on Frida (http://www.archivesofamericanart.si.edu/htgmonth/hispanic/hispanic2001.htm).

To check out some of her artwork, click to (http://www.jlhs.nhusd.k12.ca.us/Classes/Social_Science/Latin_America/Frida%20Kahlo/Art_Gallery.html).

The play will go on from Thursday to Sunday until May 19th (only one more weekend). Ticket prices are $15 each, or $12 with student I.D. For information and reservations, call 213/382 8133.

(A side note: Make sure to get good directions to the theater, it is a bit hidden from view!)

Send your comments on this review to: letters@latinola.com

About Dena Burroghs:
Dena Burroughs is a salsera, playgoer and LatinoLA correspondent.

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