Frida Kahlo (1907-1958)
Seeking love and esteem, the sensation center of the false self often creates enormous suffering. Projecting onto the “beloved,” one can not only create an illusion, losing self-reliance and autonomy, but also become a powerless victim of that illusion. The narrative of the great Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, illustrates this process. She has left us a vivid and agonizing “illustrated life” in her deeply personal art.
Romantic love, an aspect of the sensation energy center, is a trap which ensnares many of us who are trying to escape the responsibility of living life in an awakened state. Her tragic accident left Kahlo in a fragile and vulnerable mental state. She already had a tendency to be dependent on male affection because her father had nursed her back to health when she had polio as a child.
Her crippling accident required many surgeries, hospital stays and left her to deal with a good deal of pain. Enter Diego Rivera. Many of us upon learning of Kahlo’s courage and suffering could feel admiration for her, and Rivera was no exception. When we want the attention of a loved one many of us find a health crisis often works. To get Rivera’s attention she probably precipitated several of the health crises that characterized her history with him—and it often worked—and she would recover when he showed up.
The acceptance of unconscious desires as a motivation for artistic expression stemmed from the theories of Kandinsky, Freud and the Surrealists. “Kahlo’s paintings evoked her own anxieties and physical distress using strange details, such as the scattered locks of her own hair in her Self Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940).” For Kahlo, acting out as we have noted, was a way of getting attention. Surrealist Andre Breton described her art as “like a ribbon tied around a bomb.”
In a healthy and self-aware person, seeking love would begin with self-love. Kahlo was able to achieve the “love thyself” imperative from time to time but would vacillate and return to dependence on affection from others. We can see the strong and independent Frida Kahlo in her Self Portrait with Monkey. “With a proud and almost imperious gaze, the artist looks directly at the viewer in this self portrait. Her deep brown eyes are fixed on us and her pink lips demand our attention. Frida Kahlo stylizes herself as a confident artist and woman.” Which is exactly the identity that was closer to her True self.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.