Frida Kahlo 1907-1954 was born in Mexico City. Frida began to paint while she was an inpatient in hospital after a bus accident left her with a crushed back, pelvis & leg, leaving her in chronic pain the remainder of her life. A metal bar had impaled Frida's abdomen & uterus during the accident which subsequently affected her reproductive capabilities. As a child Frida had also contracted Polio which had left her lower limbs disfigured - it is estimated that she endured up to 35 operations during her lifetime. Frida had a special easel made so she could paint from her hospital bed, the majority of her paintings were self portraits expressing her pain & suffering as well as her sexual experimentation.
The first of the two paintings, "The broken column," depicts her body as being split apart like a cavernous fissure in a landscape left ravaged by an earthquake. Like the barren earth behind her, her body is empty - unable to nurture life, the only thing that exists is a column that is shattered to pieces and is being held precariously together by a corset & Frida's own rigid stance. Nails pierce her skin & tears drive down her checks yet her stoic expression denies the presence of any pain.
The second painting, "Self-portriat with thorn necklace and hummingbird", shows Frida with a thorny collar that is peircing her neck - leaving her once again rigid & unable to move freely. A dead hummingbird sits like a pendant on her chest - a token of her ressurection. On her shoulder sits a black monkey, symbolic of lust & sexuality - is it helping Frida get out of the thorny garland or is it helping construct the torturous necklace? And the black cat - is it steeped in superstition & bad luck or is it associated with anarchism of which Frida was increasingly an active participant? Or is Frida trying to tell us something altogether different?