I just really felt like reading a story to y’all, so if you prefer to listen to me read the following rather than reading yourself, here’s your chance:
A Tribute to Frida Khalo
Introductory Encounter (November ’16)
After the spectacle of being fired from my job, I immediately began a project to paint the interior of my home, starting with my bedroom, which, on the advice of a dead cow spirit (another story on another page in the future!), is now a luscious red. One day, having nearly finished painting the bedroom, I was lounging on the couch, talking with my son’s father, who had come by to commiserate with me, and probably fix my computer. Since I had made a decent habit of bringing home gallons of paint from the “oops rack” at Home Depot, several gallons and pints of paint in various colors occupied the entry space. Looking at the drab entry wall, I was considering the color yellow out loud.
“I keep thinking that wall should be yellow, a pale yellow, maybe something like those flowers… but not as pale yellow as the kitchen walls. I guess I could TRY that bright yellow that has been sitting there for the past two weeks.”
“No, that’s going to be too bright” I argued with myself.
Then, something seemed to reach into my chestnd pull me off the couch. Grabbing a small 2 inch brush from a nearby bookshelf, I moved to the gallon of yellow paint and opened it.
“Just try one small area.”
As I began the first bright yellow brush strokes…I became aware of a presence, just kind of…hanging there, floating there in the air, kind of…tapping me on the shoulder. I take a few steps back to eye my work, and the absolute perfection of the color choice is immediately obvious.
And then, a woman’s voice, which at first I perceived to have a Russian accent, floats in the space around me:
“You do not worry about the colors. You just keep brushing, you use the hand. I will take care of the colors!” she said, rather sternly.
“Well, alright with me!” I mentally exclaim to the space around me, “Who are you?”
“I am Freda” she says, without offering more.
Continuing to spread the paint with the small brush, I wondered if the accent was indeed Russian. Maybe it was Croation…or Portuguese….maybe a family member had come to offer assistance. I didn’t recall any Freda in my family tree. Just then, I decided to change my pants because they were my favorite and I didn’t want to get paint on them.
“Please continue to wear the pants, I am very much enjoying them.” Freda tells me telepathically.
“Okay”, I say to her with my mind, “but I’m going to wear them inside out so we don’t get paint on them.”
Before I have the chance to ask, the air particles shift around and I understand:
“The artist?” I ask.
Silence. I’m familiar with the name, but not the person, and so, I make a mental note to do some biographical research.
Early Breakthroughs (December ’16)
A little over a month passed, and it was mid-December. December is a calendar month for those of you who are reading this in the post-calendar era. I had double-coated the downstairs bathroom, the entry way, and one of the living room walls, with different, unexpected, and perfectly complementary colors – all with that two-inch brush. I had tools that would have made swifter work of it, but I was simply overtaken, and my body seemed to relish all the movement required to paint approximately 700 square feet with such a small brush.
The bedroom, (which on the advice of a dead cow spirit, I had painted a luscious red), was ready to receive the altar I’d been intending, the house was feeling fabulous, and despite my very sore muscles and joints, I was marvelous. Grateful for my newfound understanding of interior color selections, I thought of Frida and found her biography on Wikipedia. The first thing I noted was that her house, the one she grew up in, had a name: “The Blue House”. “Of course”, I chuckled out loud, “it makes sense why she might think my house needed color!”
Exploring further, I learned about the vast and tragic physical injuries she suffered as the result of a vehicular accident. As I read the descriptions of her injuries, the intrusive and obsessive thoughts and images that had plagued me over the previous months, presented themselves, seeming to beckon me to notice the similarities. I had, on a regular and consistent basis over the several months just prior to the breakup, been plagued by intrusive thoughts related to physical injuries. These thoughts would cause me to avoid certain things. For example, I still can’t cut hard fruit. I haven’t been able to carve a pumpkin with my son since 2013. This is a mild example; but I am sparing you the terrifying details.
As I considered Frida’s injuries, I thought of my mother’s lifetime of suffering, her leg nearly amputated at 18, as the result of a motorcycle accident, but reconstructed with multiple surgeries over the course of the next 20 years. No sooner did she regain full use of her leg, when she was hit with full-blown Hepatitis, which would ultimately require not one, but two liver transplants. I also considered my grandfather, who suffered terribly at his death, a result of throat and liver cancer. And then there was my Great grandmother, who in her 80’s was required to have her leg amputated due to circulation issues, as well as my mother’s cousin, who passed after a short battle with a brain tumor; and my own cousin who had spent most of her life institutionalized, and unable to care for herself on her own due to slow cognitive and social development, the cause of which is unclear even today.
As part of my studies in to mystics and various methods of trance and divination, I had become very aware of boundaries and my lack of them. It seemed suddenly obvious that those thoughts were not mine, but someone else’s, perhaps Frida’s. Or perhaps any one, or all, of my dead or living relatives were contributing. In any case, I knew with certainty that there was a lot of opportunity for healing around these issues of physical well-being, but did not have any confidence in my own preparedness or suitability for offering any such assistance.
I only knew that the thoughts had been scarier when I thought they were mine, and when I thought that I was having them because of something to do with me. But now, the words “empathy out of context” came to mind and I understood that I could let them go. Fully appreciating Frida’s injurious reality, and my own good fortune, I took a deep breath, released the thoughts with my exhale, thanked Frida for her help with the house, and forgot about her again until yesterday.
Connection (February ’17)
It’s now early February, and yesterday, my circular thoughts were leading only to square one. In an effort to escape my mind, I decided to draw or paint rather than continue to think and write. But what should I do? What would be the subject?
“Aha!! A tribute to Frida Khalo! A portrait of course!” I thought, “I’ll hang it up as a way of thanking her for her help! What better way to spend the evening than to create art and express gratitude to my ghostly friend by drawing her portrait?”
Deciding to continue the biographical research, I queued up a documentary about Frida on YouTube, and gathered my art supplies.
“Frida Kahlo was a Mexican woman who transformed her life by painting herself.” began the documentary. “She would take countless lovers, men and women alike”, the narrator continued, “…but the great love her life was the celebrated artist, Diego Rivera…”
I found myself strongly identifying with Frida as she was presented in this documentary. From her decidedly “masculine” privileges to her relationship with her husband, Diego Rivera. The film discusses the fact neither Frida nor Diego had remained entirely monogamous during their marriage. I could relate. In fact, just the previous weekend I found myself having a rather intense and unexpected sexual experience involving my recently discarded boyfriend and the fuck boy I’d been letting in late at night. Not a typical behavior for me, but I had been strongly considering the value of open relationships, polyamory, and other alternative ways of being in relationship, so a threesome was an experience I readily welcomed, and definitely seems like something Frida might do.
Art Becomes Her
As my penciled portrait of Frida developed, I realized how much Frida was looking like my grandmother … (I would later learn that my grandmother and Frida share the same birth date) and I could see some of my own features in the portrait as well.
“Yes, I see this too. You make me look like a gringa!”. Frida chided, almost playfully.
“Well, Frida, you of all people should understand….I can’t help but paint myself!”
The documentary quotes Frida as saying that she looked forward to death and hoped she would never come back to this realm.
“Well, so much for that, eh Frida?!”
With a shrug and an ironic laugh she points out that it was her very own hand that inscribed the following words, like a promise, on her final painting…
“Viva la Vida”!
Learn more about Frida Khalo here: http://www.pbs.org/weta/fridakahlo/life/
A Long, Hard, Look
It all started with this selfie I took in my hotel room at a management retreat just before I was rather dramatically and very unexpectedly fired from my job in October ’16. I wouldn’t figure it out for a while, but my bosses had been engaged in what I think I can fairly label a gaslighting campaign in an effort to get me to quit. This one quiet moment with myself stands out in my mind: Upon my return from the retreat, I sat, dazed, attempting to makes sense of the events that had transpired over the previous three days. Sitting on my bed, feeling as if in a fog or a dream, I numbly pulled this selfie, taken in my hotel room the previous night, from my phone, and saved it to my laptop in a newly created folder that I labeled “the Selfie Project”.
Over the months that would follow, I developed a habit of taking a photo of myself just before I would leave the house for any reason. At first, I didn’t really think much of it, but when I started making and editing my private collection of adult films, I discovered that one of the things I enjoyed doing most was taking still shots from the videos and playing with them in a photo editor (Paint.net has long been my preference – free is very affordable). It wasn’t long before I had amassed an unusually large collection of very artistic selfies.
Looking at Frida’s work, it is obvious that Frida herself is the subject depicted; she is front and center in nearly every one of her paintings. It hadn’t occurred to me that she was making selfies until someone else pointed it out. Even though I had been in contact with her, and had been learning about her through general research, all the while taking photos of myself and turning them into “art”, and even though I felt so strongly so many less obvious points of connection with her, a whole year would go by before I would see the connection. It seems that, without realizing it. I had stepped into a very similar mode of self-expression. /view my Frida (and other) Selfies here.