Frida Kahlo was not a narcissist. Despite having built a career and a legacy from numerous self-portraits, she cannot be grouped with the self-centered likes of filmmakers M. Night Shyamalan or the younger Spike Lee, both of whom couldn't fight the temptation to make an appearance in front of the camera. Kahlo did not include herself in her art merely for recognition or credit. Unlike Shyamalan, who could find almost any actor to fill the roles he played, Kahlo's face and body were the only mediums she could use to present her work.
Kahlo's specialty was pain and the endurance to bear it. Having survived polio at the age of 15, then spending a year in a cast after a horrible bus accident a few years later, Kahlo is truly a symbol of strength. Even after 30 more operations, she spent her life in constant pain. She painted her first pieces from her hospital bed, using a lap-easel. Kahlo's experience with suffering didn't just limit itself to the physical either. The rocky marriage-infidelity-divorce-then-remarriage she had with muralist Diego Rivera shows up in many of her works. A narcissist could never have done what Kahlo did. She bared herself to the world. Her excruciating pain, her inability to bear children, her sadness—everything was encompassed in her paintings and exposed publicly. And not only was she courageous, but talented as well.
She employed the same techniques as Mexican folk painters, but while some argued she included magical surrealism, she would counter that it wasn't surreal to her, but rather reality. This woman of strength and ability deserved attention, but she didn't find true fame until after her death in the 1970s, through the multiple movies, books, feminist art, plays and calendars that were made. And now, when Kahlo would be 100 years old, artists have shown their appreciation by creating their own images of her. The 27 pieces chosen by a panel of six jurors is now on display at the Picture This Gallery. Celebrate the famed self-portraitist by viewing other artists' portraits of her.
"100th Birthday Celebration for Frida Kahlo" at Picture This Gallery, 4130 Norse Way, Long Beach, (562) 425-4861. Call for times. Through Nov. 3. Free.