All photos by David Cogswell
Friday was Frida Day on Tia Stephanie's Art, Culture and Cuisine of Mexico City tour. The day began with a visit to the Frida Kahlo Museum.
Actually, every day is Frida Day in Mexico City these days. The growth of the international fame of the Mexican painter over the last 30 years is astonishing. She has become an international icon, a figure loved passionately by millions of people.
Her fame has eclipsed that of her larger-than-life husband, the muralist Diego Rivera, who was always by far the more celebrated figure during her lifetime. And she has become a beacon drawing visitors to Mexico City from around the world.
Frida died in 1954 and at the time she was known more than anything else as Diego Rivera's wife. She would no doubt be surprised at how much her legend has grown.
There has been a huge upsurge in interest in Frida since the 1980s. The movie "Frida," produced by and starring the Mexican actress Salma Hayek and directed by Julie Taymor, helped to spread Frida's story to a mass audience.
Madonna bought one of Frida's paintings for $5.6 million, which set a record for Latin American painters in the cost of their work. But these things are reflections of Frida's rising fame as much as they are causes of it.
Frida's life and art have touched many people deeply. Part of what moves people so deeply is no doubt the fact that she suffered greatly for practically her entire life, but still managed to live her life with great flair, accomplishing great things.
Her sufferings began early in life. She contracted polio when she was 6 years old. She was bedridden for nine months, and as a result one of her legs was shorter than the other, causing her to limp. When she tried out for a school play, the instructor said, "She'll never act. She walks like she has a peg leg." Kids picked up on it and the nickname "Peg Leg" stuck and tormented her.
I'm deeply grateful to have been able to have the experience, and the close encounter with Frida makes me more appreciative than ever of the great privilege of life and health.
In her last days, as her health was declining inexorably toward the end, she produced her last painting, which is on display at the house. In spite of a lifetime of physical suffering that was then building to a crescendo, she still produced an image from which the joy of life poured forth.
It pictures watermelons sliced open showing their bright pink insides and on one of them is written what could be Frida's lifelong motto: "Viva la Vida." Live life.
Though she was in pain nearly every day of her life, she lived life as fully as anyone ever could, from beginning to end.
"I want to live," she said, near the end. "In spite of all this, life is worth living."
Today her example is a source of great inspiration to millions. It was a deeply moving experience to get close to her spirit in that house.
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