July 6th, 1907 gave us one of the most influential artists ever to pick up a paintbrush. I hate to say it but until recently, I had always heard of the name Frida but not really know much about the surrealistic artist who left her brand on paint with what she considered not “dreams or nightmares” but her “own reality.”
That strikes a chord that still thrums, never quieting.
Isn’t that what all artists try to do? Even those of us who write fiction still interlace the fantasy details with what we know to be truth and reality.
Frida experienced great physical hardships after a horrible accident which left her back in disrepair that required years of surgery and recovery. She spent her recovery time painting in bed, an easel raised above her for easier access. She used brushstrokes to silently tell the world about her painful reality, and the world, for once, took notice and listened.
Otherwise, how would I know about her birthday today? Me, an Oklahoma native who barely learned of any artists in school outside of the cliched artists that you can learn from a TV show (thank you, small southern school system). Not that Van Gogh isn’t of worthy mention; this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you, Vincent, but it’s like learning about Shakespeare and not reading a play outside of the routine Romeo and Juliet. It was shocking to other colleagues at my university to hear I had only read the plays R&J and Macbeth. That was the extent of it, so is it really surprising I only knew Frida as the “lady with the eyebrows”?
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
I love that so much. Every now and then, I have a moment that feels like I won’t survive it. Yesterday, without warning, I had an emotional cry fest, all triggered by a freaking TikTok video. A nurse made a bittersweet video with music that focuses on a patient with Alzheimer’s, her daughter whom she mistakes as a kind stranger, but then she immediately remembers her and they have a sweet moment together.
Maybe it was happy but tragic emotion that broke my heart, maybe because I have a Granny who spends each day at her nursing home talking about family and friends who died long before I was born or says she just got home from a nursing shift at the hospital and even on occasion will look at me, blink, and go, “Oh, Abbie, you’re here!” And I’ve been there for twenty minutes…
But I survived crying off my liquid, black eyeliner and mascara (not waterproof obviously). I survived the horrific tearing pain in my chest, let myself sob and cry so loud I worried a neighbor might call someone. I even survived my poor kitty cat, Dahlia, running as fast as she could away from me after I tried holding her and petting her with tears dripping into her royal fur. I don’t blame you, Dahlia. Mommy was in a weird headspace.
But Frida was correct: I went to bed later with proper medicine, a cleanly washed face, and my confused husband who finds himself a little at a loss to help me when I’m at the mercy of my own emotions (he was exhausted from driving all day, so he wasn’t able to have a clear head himself to understand how distraught and wrung out I felt). But I survived that awful unraveling, and I look over Frida’s many artworks that are her story of pain, love, and horrific challenges she had no choice but to survive.
Happy birthday, Frida. May we always have your art to remind us that we can and will endure!