They’ve got it all backward.
The Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City ought to start with the collection of medical harnesses and contraptions that the artist used to alleviate the pain, to stand upright, to obtain a modicum of normality in her life.
Instead, the very devices that she so cleverly hid beneath her layered dresses and shawls come at the end of the journey. They are shocking, horrifying.
They make you, finally, grasp the essence of the pain which dictated and influenced so much of her life and art.
It is only at the end that the courage, the determination, the resilience, the bravery of Frida Kahlo come into the clearest focus.
You even go through the gift shop before you get to see the harshest realities of her life.
Just the same, the artist lived through her pain in splendid surroundings. The Blue House in the Colonia del Carmen neighborhood of Coyoacán is a spacious though hardly opulent compound dedicated to her work and life – two often inextricable things.
There are ample references to others who passed this way – including her husband and soulmate Diego Rivera, the Russian anarchist Leon Trotsky, and the sculpturer Mardonio Magaña-Camacho, The museum contains 24 of Magaña’s sculptures in stone and wood.
If Frida Kahlo is the Elvis of Mexico, the Blue House is undoubtedly Graceland. Elvis and Frida are pop cultural icons – and marketing behemoths – that transcend their art. Their images are exploited on every imaginable surface. You don’t even have to like their art or music to appreciate the cultural phenomena.
Even the museum gift shop is its own spin-off museum — a look into how the hyper-marketing of Khalo onto virtually any surface that will take an image has created a universality that transcends her life as a person and artist.
To its credit, the Frida museum gives visitors every opportunity to inhabit the soul of Kahlo. Her art station, with a mirror for self-portrait and brushes and pigments and oils, sit where they were on the day she died. I almost expected to see steam rising off a hot cup of tea amidst the clutter.
The rambling house is filled with books and bric-a-brac, mementos, art, and curiosities. All of it can be filed under “Inspiration.” The sprawling courtyard is a meditative sanctuary with melodic fountains, thick vegetation, hidden benches, and towering trees.
While Frida Kahlo was her own best subject to paint – and many examples hang on the museum’s walls – she was also the desirable focus of other painters and photographers. Many of their work can be found here, too. There are family photos and paintings and an assortment of uncompleted work, that in their own way, may disclose as much about Kahlo as do her finished self-portraits.
Enjoy this “tour” through the museum, and a glimpse into the life of the artist, performance artist, and proto-celebrity.
2 thoughts on “Frida Kahlo’s Hall of Pain museum in Mexico City, the artist’s own Graceland”
Excellent Bob. I’ve once read of her pain but have since forgotten. Recently I’ve gone through months of pretty severe pain, intermittently attenuated by narcotics. That was enough to deeply convince me that I would not do well enduring more. My admiration of Ms Khalo has considerably increased.
A blend of quiet courage and God given talent. Thanks for the tour.