Frida Kahlo, who remains one of the most influential and famous painters in history, left the world much more than just her exquisite paintings. From her brush came poetry, and we are left with the proof.
But, the woman behind the infamous paintings — "The Wounded Deer" and "The Broken Column" — had more than just artistic talent. Kahlo had a fiery personality and a longing for pleasure, and she lived her life truly authentically. We can all learn a few things from her time on Earth:
Who better to learn the lesson of resilience from than the woman behind the quote, “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can?”
At the age of 18, Kahlo was in a horrific bus accident that caused so much irreparable damage to her body that her doctors thought she was going to die on the operating table. The accident broke her spinal column, her collar bone, her pelvis, her foot and her ribs.
Hell, she was pierced through the abdomen with an iron railing. The accident left her with unthinkable injuries, scars and disabilities, but it did not kill her. Think of how amazing that is.
Mind you, this was in 1925. Medical technology was nowhere near what it is today.
Frida, who recovered for two whole years, vowed to walk again. She also vowed to never again be a financial burden on her family. She wanted to support herself, both physically and monetarily.
The accident is the thing that led her to her painting career. Through her art, Frida survived.
As she famously said, “I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.”
2. Being True To Yourself
Frida Kahlo was openly bisexual, and for the time, that was relatively taboo. She has been said to have had affairs with other prominent women of the time, such as Josephine Baker, Georgia Georgia O'Keeffe and Chavela Vargas.
Even though the years have progressed and being queer is now much more socially acceptable than it was 100 years ago, it still terrifies people to come out of the closet. Stars like Ellen Page have talked about how nerve-racking it can be to come out of the closet and show the world who you really are.
Kahlo was an inspiration and poster woman for being yourself, and not feeling ashamed of the person you truly are.
3. Breaking Stereotypes
Frida was well-known for her style. But with that style came phases of androgyny.
Kahlo would experiment with men's clothes and hairstyles. Maybe this was her way of breaking down the social norms of the time, or maybe it was a form of self-expression. Whatever her intent was, it is inspirational to see a woman push boundaries like that.
Seeing her in her family portrait circa 1927, dressed in a man's suit, makes me want to run to the tailor and get my own. She was a rule-breaker, a trendsetter and a role model.
Perhaps one of the reasons Kahlo is so memorable — as not only an artist, but also as a person — because she broke the mold. She was Tim Burton way before there ever was a Tim Burton. She was Diane Keaton before there was a Diane Keaton.
She did what she wanted, dressed how she pleased and made love to whomever she desired. She is an inspiration for those looking to break down walls, regardless of what other people will say or think.
If Frida Kahlo had anything in spades, it was self-confidence. The woman famously donned a unibrow and mustache for her entire adult life. Think about how much pure and blatant confidence you would have had to have to rock something so unconventional, but still exude so much sex appeal that you could nail down your country's most famous artist of the day. Her husband was Diego Rivera.
Frida didn't just attract men, though. As I mentioned earlier, she attracted women as well. But, it wasn't all about looks when it came to Kahlo. She was intelligent, fiery and imaginative.
She had affairs with some of the world's most influential people, including Leon Trotsky. Intelligence attracts intelligence.
Few others could forgive such transgressions as Frida Kahlo did. Her beloved sister and the husband she worshipped had an affair, and discovering it nearly broke her heart.
After some time away from her husband, she forgave his betrayal. This isn't to say you should take someone back who cheats on you, but what's the alternative? Stew in anger and hatred for the rest of your days? Never speak to your sister again?
I admire Frida for her ability to forgive a betrayal of that level. Should she have gone back? Probably not. But forgiveness is such a beautiful lesson, and few people ever learn it.
Although her husband was a pathological cheat and Frida had countless affairs of her own, she and Diego loved each other so fully, they could never part for long. Frida adored Diego. She loved him ever since she first laid eyes on him as a schoolgirl, when he was commissioned to paint a mural at her school.
Their love story was a beautiful one (aside from the affairs). He was a mentor to her, he was her best friend and he was her equal. The letters she wrote to him are beautiful. They talk about a love that's so entirely full, one can only dream of being adored in such a way.
In a letter to Diego, she wrote, “I love you more than my own skin, and even though you don't love me the same way, you love me anyway, don't you? If you don't, I'll always have the hope that you do, and I'm satisfied with that. Love me a little. I adore you.” That is nothing short of pure devotion.
Kahlo, who has been deceased for over 60 years now, definitely left her mark on the world. Thinking of the number of people across the globe who can recognize that iconic unibrow from her self-portraits astounds me. Not only are we left with her unmatched artistic work, but we are also left with the legacy of a woman who lived life entirely as she was. She was totally eccentric and delightfully brilliant.