I had the good fortune to visit the Brooklyn Museum recently to view the Frida Kahlo exhibit titled Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving. I did not know much about this remarkable woman until I saw the bio-pic staring Selma Hayek as Frida in 2002. Since then I have seen some more of Frida’s paintings but this current exhibition goes well beyond canvas. This show is fantastic because it brings together Frida’s art, family photos, film clips, and personal items, including some of her wardrobe and even the braces and casts that she was subjected to wearing, in such a way that I felt as if I were almost intruding into her life; that I was a voyeur learning intimate details of this woman’s life that are so personal as to border on the invasive. However, as a result, I have a newfound respect for this amazing woman and her art – not just her paintings, but the woman and the life that she constructed as she saw fit. This is a woman who faced incredible personal and professional obstacles that could have easily been insurmountable. Although she could have surrendered at any time, she found a path to building a life through her art, and her art was integral to her very being.
There are very few people that I can think of that cause me to feel such respect. Off the top of my head the last person that struck me to this extent was Kathryn Graham, publisher of the Washington Post (the second female publisher of a major American newspaper when the country was in turmoil). I had picked up Kathryn’s autobiography in an airport while waiting for a flight; I remembered the turmoil of those times and wanted to learn more about this woman (much as I wanted to know about Frida). Like Frida, Kathryn did not choose the hardships she faced, but she rose to the challenges. When complimented on her courage Kathryn replied, I’m not courageous…I simply had no choice. But isn’t that courage - facing the reality of a situation and constructing a framework that gets you from point A to point B so that eventually, in hindsight, you discover that you’ve accomplished more than you may have thought possible?
Frida lived a remarkable life and this exhibit invites us all to see behind the canvas to learn how one woman was able to use adversity to her own advantage not only to create beautiful art, but to build a life on her own terms…an incredible legacy that I find inspiring.