Soy una mezcla (I am a mixture).
A few days after seeing Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving at the Brooklyn Museum, I keep coming back to one of the smaller works on display, one I didn’t know before I saw the show. Both its size and its black-and-white palette made it easy to overlook. Entitled Frida y el aborto (Frida and the Miscarriage), it’s a simple lithograph of which only three copies remain, Frida having destroyed the rest. She commented about her miscarriages, “Many things prevented the fulfillment of the desire all consider normal, and nothing seemed more normal to me than to paint what I had not achieved…I lost three children…Painting replaced all of that.”
As with Kahlo’s body of work itself, color is a defining element of much of the rest of the exhibition. It includes clothing both from her personal wardrobe and similar pieces, down to the plaster casts she wore on her torso after a streetcar accident left her permanently disabled; photographs from all stages of her life, including the brilliant color photos by her lover Nickolas Muray; and some of her best-loved paintings, including one of my favorites, Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego, and Señor Xolotl. The lightboxes at the front of the exhibit (pictured above) pop in cerulean and peach; the walls inside are emerald and maize.
But when I think about the exhibit, I keep thinking about Frida y el aborto. In this print, she memorializes her grief, refusing to sanitize it; she also looks ahead, to a future in which new things, symbolized by plants taking root, grow from the losses of her pregnancies.
Frida Kahlo was a mother of invention, most notably after she was almost killed in the streetcar accident. In the notes for the exhibition, the accident is described as such:
A fellow passenger on the bus that crashed in 1925, severely injuring Kahlo, was heading to the unfinished National Theatre with a package of gold leaf. The impact of the collision scattered Kahlo with flecks of gold.
After seeing the exhibit, I see all of the color in it settling not on Frida but around her. I see her for a moment as she saw herself in Frida y el aborto: naked, searching within for what to bring forth. I see her not in color but in black-and-white, scattered with gold.