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Copy of An Interview with Frida Kahlo

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Transcript of Copy of An Interview with Frida Kahlo

An Interview with Frida Kahlo
Sam Bernstein
Tell me about your relationship with your parents.
My beloved father treated me more like a son than a daughter. When I was young, he signed me up for soccer, swimming and wrestling teams. He was the reason I received an education at the National Preparatory School. He may have treated me like a son, but at least I was treated like a person and respected as one. My father was my everything. My mother on the other hand, I owe nothing to. I couldn't even bring myself to see her body after she died.
What inspired you to start painting?
In 1925, I was riding on a streetcar with my boyfriend of the time when a streetcar struck the bus. I was impaled by a handrail and left seriously injured. I had to stay at the Red Cross Hospital for weeks and then stay on bed rest at home. I began to paint during my recovery because I was immobilized and it was all I could really do. I painted my first self portrait for the boyfriend who was on the streetcar with me, but he was soon tired of my injured self and moved on from me.
But that was not your first major injury or illness, correct?
Oh God no. At the age of six, I was crippled by a bout of polio. My parents did not initially detect my illness, so when my right leg began to wither, I attributed it to a schoolyard bully throwing a wooden log at me. I tried to hide my deformed leg by wrapping it in bandages. I refused to wear a brace, which led to further complications later in life such as spinal malformation and trouble bearing children. I was mocked endlessly as a child, the bullies even went so far as to call me peg leg. To this day I walk with a staggering limp.
Did this inspire any of your major works of art?
One of my most famous works,
Broken Column
, represents the spinal malformation I was left with as a result of the polio. The steel corset I wear in the picture is a polio corset often used to help people recover.

What was your childhood like?
In general, what inspires you to paint?
The pain. The pain of heartbreak, the pain of sickness, the pain of betrayal. I take this pain, I express this pain, and I change it into something positive and beautiful. In these paintings, I am free of my suffering. I try to represent myself much like an animal would. Animals cannot help but be true to who they are. That is why I so often paint them.
What betrayal are you referring to?
My husband Diego and I had an open marriage. We were both allowed to have other partners. However, I never expected Diego to have an affair with my younger sister Christina. This relationship greatly hurt me and I tried endlessly to get back at Diego. It contributed to our temporary divorce. Diego and I did get back together, but our relationship was never the same.
How did your art differ before you became involved with Diego Rivera?
Before Diego and I formally met, I began my art career doing commercial engravings in my father's friend's workshop. I also studied gesture drawings in the style of Adolfo Best Maugard. I then progressed to using watercolors and eventually oil paints. As a painter, I began to study the work of Abraham Angel. In my paintings, I represented the shift to bustling city life. I painted concrete, geometrical shapes with little color. I focused on form and content.
Tell me more about your relationship with Diego Rivera.
We married on August 21, 1929. He encourages me to continue painting and provides me with a public platform for my work. He introduced me to people who played a vital role in making my work known and appreciated. Although we have an affectionate relationship, we both have had affairs. And many. Our relationship has been tumultuous and painful. Our stay in the United States, especially New York was very hard for
the both of us.
What was so hard about your time in New York?
In New York, Diego's work on his mural at the Rockefeller Center was halted. Nelson Rockefeller came to dislike
Man at the Crossroads
because Diego painted Lenin into it. Rockefeller later commissioned to have it painted over. We moved back to Mexico soon after. New York was also where I had a miscarriage. It was devastating.
How did you utilize the "elements of art?"
What kind of art do you make?
I grew up in the lower-middle class. My siblings and I truly represented the coming together of polar opposite cultures. My father was a German-Jewish photographer and my mother was an extremely Catholic Spanish-Indian. My household was generally sad. My mother was always distraught over losing a son a few days after he was born and instead of caring for me, passed me off to wet nurses. My three sisters and I could never fill the whole in my mother's heart that my brother left behind. My father also suffered but in a very different way. He long battled epilepsy. School served as a bit of an escape. I attended the National Preparatory School where I was one of only 35 girls of 2,000 students.
I don't really know what one would characterize my art as. Some say I am a surrealist, but to me, my art is my reality. My art operates as a diary. It exposes my innermost thoughts and feelings. I use feminist and indigenous inspirations to enhance these expressions.
When were you born?
I was born in 1910. The same year that the Mexican Revolution began. This was also the year that President Porfirio Diaz was overthrown.
Really? I had heard that you were born in 1907.
Well I guess I have been caught in my lie. My lie was not for for vanity's sack. Instead, I just wanted to further express my identification with my homeland. Mexico's fight for independence served to have a huge impact on my childhood and my artistic expression.
Where have you lived?
I was born in Coyocoán, Mexico. I traveled quite a lot for my art. I even spent a few years living in the United States. I always made it back to Coyocoán though. I am currently living back in my childhood home "Casa Azul."
Since my artwork varied so much over the years, I truly utilized all of the Elements of Art. In my youth, I experimented more with geometric
shape
and concrete
form
. I also stuck with monochromatic
colors
. As I matured as an artist, and transitioned into painting portraits, qualities such as
line
and
value
became extremely important. I used line to outline my figures and value to add life and
space,
both negative and positive, to my paintings. I used
texture
to make my subjects appear more porcelain and smooth and their backgrounds appear rougher by comparison.
How did you utilize the "principles of design?"
As a daughter of Mexico,
rhythm
and
pattern
are of the utmost important. They represent my culture. Intricate patterns carry a viewers eye throughout my paintings. I
emphasize
certain images using bold colors and defined lines. I also use color to
contrast
different

aspects of paintings by using muted colors as well as bold colors. To
balance
my work, when not painting a portrait, I use the rule of thirds. My portraits are pretty symmetrical while still remaining realistic. To
unify
my art, I tend to use loose, faint lines to connect different subjects, or I tend to connect subjects physically. I
repeat
details, such as arrows, throughout my paintings. Also, in different paintings, I tend to repeat using blood and physical damage.
You are often seen as an advocate and inspiration for minorities, what causes do you most support?
As a bisexual, half-Jewish, Mexican, Communist, woman, I feel a strong sense of support for all of these groups. Many people find it easy to identify with some part of me. I am brave and I am a fighter for what I believe him. While I am all of these things, none of them solely defines me. I will, however, fight for the rights of these people always. I will fight for the rights of all forever.
Tell me more about your sexual and gender identity.
Although I married Diego, I do identify as bisexual. Within our open marriage, we are both allowed to have relations with other people. I have had these relations with both men and women. In fact, some of these men and women have been celebrities. I also sometimes dress in men's clothing because I have trouble feeling truly beautiful as a feminine women.
Really? Which celebrities have you had relations with?
I have had relations with Leon Trotsky, the dancer Josephine Baker, the painter Georgia O'Keefe, actress Paulette Goddard (who Diego slept with first), sculptor Isamu Noguchi, and many others.
Sources
http://lifeofanartist.hubpages.com/hub/When-Frida-Kahlo-Set-Her-Eyes-on-Josephine-Baker
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/1995/09/frida-kahlo-diego-rivera-art-diary
http://www.fridakahlofans.com/biocomplete.html
http://www.biography.com/people/frida-kahlo-9359496
http://www.pbs.org/weta/fridakahlo/index.html
http://www.fridakahlo.com

Books:
The Great Hispanic Heritage: Frida Kahlo
by John Morrison and Jamie Pietras
Frida Kahlo
Luis-Martin Lozano


Tell me about your Communist involvement.
Diego and I have been supporters of the Communist movement for a while now. We worked together to raise money for the Republican Mexicans who fought against Franco's rule. Diego convinced the Mexican government to allow Trotsky and his wife achieve political asylum. He, however, stayed at my father's house. We spoke only in English there and shared notes, books, and art. I got the opportunity to learn even more about Communism.
Sadly, shortly after our interview was conducted, Frida Kahlo passed away on July 13,1954. The death was reported as pulmonary embolism, though no autopsy was ever performed. Many suspect that Kahlo actually committed suicide by overdose. Kahlo was cremated.
Broken Column
The Wounded Deer
Portrait of Cristina, My Sister
Urban Landscape
Frieda and Diego Rivera
Henry Ford Hospital
Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair
Full transcript