Ribbon Around A Bomb

Frida Kahlo and Diego RiveraFrida Kahlo would have been 106 years old today. I noted the anniversary a year ago as part of my series, Born To Be Wild, which marked the birthdays of noteworthy artists and appeared on Vine, the blog at Wisteria.com.

Twenty years ago, in an exhibition of Mexican surrealists and before I even knew she existed, I came around a corner in the Dallas Museum of Art to be confronted by the painted autobiographies of Frida Kahlo.

It was a turning point for me in more ways than one, having proven itself to be a significant step in my decision to make art, as well as in what kind of work I would produce to this day.

“Paint what you know” is the oft-heard dictum for artists, and after a traffic accident left Kahlo, the eighteen-year-old daughter of an architectural photographer, impaled on the iron handrail of a Mexico City bus, she did just that.

Abandoning its detached, second-person study of the human condition, she traded medical schooling for self portraits in which she would turn herself inside out, saying, “I am the subject I know best.”

Even if copyright didn’t prevent me using a Frida Kahlo painting here, I think I would still hesitate to select one, her body of work in general holds such power and personal significance for me. So if a single image is what’s required, this photo better represents to me her unblinking face down of life. (Shown here with husband Diego Rivera. Photo by Carl Van Vechten.)

Frida Kahlo, whose work surrealist André Breton called a “ribbon around a bomb”, was born on July 6, 1907.