Suzanne LaFetra

Anguish makes Art: a little lesson from Frida

My kids and I were standing in front of The Two Fridas at the San Francisco Musuem of Modern Art. I knew that I was mostly going for me, that I wanted to drink in all of Kahlo’s anguished, sensual, visceral paintings. Last time I’d seen her work in person was 19 years ago in Mexico City, when I knew a lot less about anguish and art and love. Back then, to me, Kahlo’s worked seethed with passion, sexuality, fecundity.

Holding hands with my six- and eight-year-old, her work struck a different nerve. We took in the larger-than-life canvas depicting two images of Kahlo, complete with hearts, veins, and bloody wedding dress.

 Why does she look so sad? and Look, you can see inside her heart, my kids said.  I read to them from the program and when I got to the part where Kahlo described The Two Fridas as a response to the heartbreak over her divorce, I had to pause.

“Go on, Mommy,” my daughter said. “Keep going.” But I couldn’t, not for a couple of moments. My own divorce will be finalized this month. Now I understand first-hand how heartache could prompt 49 square feet of canvas devoted to the anguish of change.

I haven’t written much since my marriage fell apart. I let freelance work dribble away, the stream of publications nearly dried up.  A manuscript about my love affair with Mexico has been tucked into a file drawer for nearly two years. But over the past month or so, I’ve felt the little sputter of a spark inside, that tiny flame of creativity re-igniting.

Kahlo suffered immeasurably, and painted her way through a rich but agonizing life. Taking a lesson from her, it seems the least I can do is to use my own small anguish to fuel that precious flame.“Go on… keep going.”

It’s no 7′X7′ masterpiece, but blogs are hanging one’s words out there for the world to see. My small attempt at art, I suppose, heart exposed, wearing my virtual bloodied wedding dress.

I promise– the posts will be cheerier sometimes. Stay tuned.