Now Playing: Original Post 6th Dec, 2005
I recently got deeply interested in the life and paintings of Frida Kahlo, the 20th century Mexican Renaissance painter. Of course it was the movie "Frida" to begin with. Julie Taymor's (and Salma Hayek's) 2002 movie did one good thing above all, it breathed life back into Mexican cultural history of the last century, especially painting. I knew nothing about Frida before I watched this film. And after I did, Frida was all over me.
I saw another documentary film about Frida Kahlo and her times. Carlos Fuentes, the famous Mexican author, was one of the commentators. It is a platitude now that Frida's work is inseparable from the life she led. Nearly every painting she did, seems to have been drawn with her fragile yet compelling sexuality, with the real blood she spilled all along her walks and the ill-fate that walked with her - all seem to serve as the corolla from which her painting swirls out. The one interesting aspect of Frida's painting is "surrealism". Let me self-reflect a little bit on this today. Frida's painting was considered to be "vaguely surrealistic" much like the way South-Asian English accent would seem to many Westerners as "vaguely British".
Andre Breton, the theorist behind the French Surrealistic movement, went to Mexico City and met Frida and her lover/husband, the noted painter Diego Rivera. Breton did see a bold new brand of "surrealism" in Frida Kahlo (maybe much like the way Marc Chagall, the German painter, saw "Modern Expressionism" in Tagore's paintings and urged him to join their movement). While Tagore denied outright to sign up for the brand, I thought, Frida was sort of hesitant initially. She agreed to latch onto the "brandname" in some vague way. Later Breton invited her to display her paintings in Paris. Nothing had been arranged for her when she landed in Paris. It left her sour-lipped for a while; finally a show could be arranged and Frida sold well.
At this point in the video, Carlos Fuentes makes a comment which got me thoroughly enthused over this quality of Frida's work and Latin American culture in general. Fuentes said, that to the Americas, Surrealism was a part of life way before the French invented it. Surrealism was not something that had to be extracted from a dream, it was part of the common Latin thought-process, part of common Latin life. With the new-found freedom, Frida's paintings just expressed it boldly.
I am deeply curious about the statement Fuentes made and am trying to understand it better. I'll add notes to this posting when I get more meat to bite on.