Frida Kahlo, like many other artists and painters made a unique body of work around her experiences of intense pain and suffering; both in reaction to her crippled body following a bus accident and her tumultuous relationship with mentor and fellow painter Diego Rivera.
She wore her suffering with great dignity and an un-swaying honesty, revealing – much like many other female self portrait artists and photographers of the 20th century – the vulnerability and innocence of true femininity, giving her a huge amount of credibility and, well, integrity.
Her painting style though known as primitive lends itself to this honesty and it is because of this unique exploration of such human frailty that she, in her paintings and photographs as well as her quotes, probably has a huge amount to teach us on the art of mortality.
Here are nine Frida Kahlo quotes to inspire you on your journey.
1) “I don’t paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality”
Thoroughly insisting that she was NOT a surrealist, Kahlo preferred it to be known that she lived in this world of operations and dissected organs. Perhaps she also refers to her colourful inner world, one that we all have.
If one of the meanings of life is to get to know oneself then Kahlo showed us how to do it in style. Perhaps we don’t all have the identity of lustful monkeys and Mexican folk lore but we may be surprised at how rich our inner world is if we cared to look a little closer.
2) “I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
We are all in the same boat, there is no real distinction between us, we are all One. We all might imagine there’s something ‘wrong’ with us at some time or another in our lifetimes.
The only barrier between us (and a necessary one at that for some aspects of life) is this realization of self and other. Through art and awareness we can learn that we are not alone and there is no distinction. There never was any.
Suppression of our emotions will never work. They’ll always find a way to swim back to the surface, perhaps in an uglier and more threatening form than they sunk down with.
It seems the more we suppress and ignore, the more they come back – it’s the law of karma. A problem will evolve and become grittier and more unforgiving the longer you leave it.
4) “Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light. Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing.”
Tragedy IS ridiculous, at least that’s how it seems when you can forget to be serious and just laugh. Having said that getting to that point can often feel enormously difficult. The less seriously we take ourselves in the first place the better.
Surrounding ourselves with ‘lightness’; diet, media intake, company, the easier this will be. Relaxing and letting go will be the best investment you have ever made. Remember there are homeless orphans with nothing to eat sitting in the sun right now and having a good laugh. If they can do it, so can you.
5) “Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”
This too shall pass. The ever present riddle of impermanence. How to get one’s head around this and swim in its glorious lesson every second of the day. This is a gift from the artist but a damning of the depressed.
With depression, a ‘low’ we feel like it will never end. Being the artist, we create with what we have, even if it seems depressing. Our suffering and the concave feeling we are experiencing has promise too. It can be enjoyed. No kidding.
6) “I wish I could do whatever I liked behind the curtain of “madness”. Then: I’d arrange flowers, all day long, I’d paint; pain, love and tenderness, I would laugh as much as I feel like at the stupidity of others, and they would all say: “Poor thing, she’s crazy!” (Above all I would laugh at my own stupidity.) I would build my world which while I lived, would be in agreement with all the worlds. The day, or the hour, or the minute that I lived would be mine and everyone else’s – my madness would not be an escape from “reality”.”
Madness. Society’s agreement on what is considered normality. Perhaps reality really is, in a solipsistic fashion, all in our minds. To be considered crazy is to be left alone. No expectations, no responsibilities, no need to show up and perform.
‘In agreement with all the worlds’… inhabiting the agreed norm, our own multitudinous realities and perhaps piercing the many layers of world upon world; that which lends itself to creativity, the memes that float through the air and attach themselves to us in the form of a great idea.
The start of a new life or the beginning of a more positive way of being. The reason for being; love and creativity.
7) “I want to be inside your darkest everything”
Perhaps we like suffering – do we chose to experience it? It’s definitely harder to face the day and suck up all that comes with it without feeling sorry for ourselves. It seems that this is (in a negative fashion) what we use relationships for.
Mirroring self hatred and our deepest wells of sadness. Becoming inert and self destructive. Relationships are so promising and there to help, yet many a time we need to fall into the trap of trying to project our egos onto the other and hoping that they’ll save us.
A mature and spiritually healthy relationship comes from two individuals operating on their own level, interdependent, loving, and sharply reflective.
8) “Pain, pleasure and death are no more than a process for existence. The revolutionary struggle in this process is a doorway open to intelligence”
In three states of being the trick is not to submerge yourself in it but become the witness. Let them wash over you and then learn from them. Don’t try to stop the pain happening again but welcome it.
Don’t try to stop the pleasure from passing but instead wave it goodbye and don’t try to run from death because it’s your best friend.
Perhaps the worst possible thing in life is stagnation; the opposite of impermanence when nothing moves but the stink as it hits the nostrils.
9) “I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”
How can we ever truly know anyone else but ourselves? To be alone is an opportunity. When you’re in the crowd you never learn. You never become anything new. OK so it’s fun, life moves at a pace. But it becomes so routine, so predictable.
As Frida Kahlo has graciously proved, there’s no fountain so nurturing as our own well of self; our inner world, own personal suffering and heart-broken moments are the things we will look back on and celebrate.