Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Frida and Me



I wish this was the real Frida. I bet she would have been interesting to talk to.
We're in the midst of the move to our new place just north of Fresno outside the little town of Madera. Just so you know, Madera means "wood" in Spanish. Another thing is Madera, I'm told, is about as Central California as you can get. Someone decided that Madera was so central as to be part Northern California and part Southern California. They even commemorated the thought with two trees planted next to each other in the middle of town. A palm tree to symbolize SoCal and an oak tree to symbolize NoCal.


Having lived in NoCal since 1977 I think that Madera has more of a SoCal feel. It's 75 percent Hispanic and it's flat, dry and just, well, has the smell of SoCal. It's hard to describe. It smells dry and fresh at the same time. NoCal has the scent of the ocean. There's some salt. There's some redwood. But it's OK. Both are good.

On Saturday after we gave up trying to fix the riding mower we decided we should not be all work and no play or we would become dull. I had heard that they were having a Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Fresno Museum of Art. It was called "Frida Kahlo Through the Eyes of Nickolas Muray". Nickolas Muray was a New York photographer who met Miguel Covarrubias while Miguel was in New York. Covarrubias was also a friend of Frida and Diego Rivera. Covarrubias invited Muray to visit him and his wife in Mexico. In Mexico Frida and Muray began a lifelong friendship and love affair. Through the lens of Muray Frida comes out as the beauty she was. Sad, troubled but beautiful. When you see the photos you aren't distracted by her eyebrows or dark upper lip although you do see them. They seem right and correct. You see her beautiful eyes and into her soul. Almost as much as you see into her soul through her paintings.

She reminds me of my mother. My mother painted some paintings that depicted her life with my father. I can imagine that my mother might have agreed with Frida when Frida said "there were two big accidents in my life: the bus and Diego". Frida had been in a horrific bus accident at the age of 18 which left her maimed and in pain for the rest of her life. Not long after that she met and married Diego Rivera who was Mexico's most famous painter. She passed away at age 47 and for most of her short adult life she was alternately inspired and tortured by Diego. My mother's depictions of her relationship with my father weren't as dark as Frida's. My mother's could be whimsical. But the pain showed through just like in Frida's paintings. She would have agreed that her relationship with my father was a " big accident" just like the relationship between Frida and Diego.

The museum made a celebration of Frida. They had a look-alike contest and kid's activities among other things. I guess Frida might have appreciated it but I think she also would have been perplexed as well. It's strange how we turn human beings that we admire into something more than what they actually are. The human beings who have the guts to spill their pain out for all to see without wiping our noses in it. They spill it out. It sits there and we have to decide how to think about it. In the case of Frida we finally revere her. She didn't set out to be a painter. Life made her that way. I think that's her triumph. She let life take her and she used it. For that she is one of my heros.


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