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Amy Stechler: This is sort of a broad question, but could you summarize in what way the accident determined who she became? Hayden Herrera: Well, she wouldn't have been a painter if it hadn't been for the accident. She started painting because she was bedridden and she said she was bored in hell in bed and needed something to do to help support her family. It was something she could do at home. She wasn't for a long time really well enough to go out and get another job.
She had had a couple of jobs before the accident, none of them very serious, but, so the accident turned her into a painter. I mean, not just because it was a practical thing to do, but because she needed, she needed something to hold onto, and I think painting her self-image over and over again was a way of creating something that she could hold onto that steadied her.
Stechler: You think that the self-portrait is a ificant aspect of her becoming a painter? Herrera: I think she, I think part of it was a needing to know herself and to sort of make herself feel real, and in the world, and like a solid person in space somehow, that to get, not to feel so fragile. This was sort of a concrete thing.
If you paint yourself, you're permanently there. Stechler: Do you think that that remained as a motivation in her self-portraiture as she developed as an artist? That she was trying to balance back and forth, trying to communicate? Herrera: Yeah. I've always felt that from the very beginning Frida Kahlo's self-portraits were a way of attaching people to her.
They often were gifts for friends, and she would want to keep herself in somebody's mind. It's interesting that she would paint Diego on her mind painting Diego's image in her forehead. But then her paintings were to put herself in other people's minds.
She just didn't want to be neglected. She really wanted a lot of attention. And she wanted people to focus on her, and I think that comes both Lonely women in Hayden Arizona the accident and brush with death with polio also, and maybe from other kinds of loneliness as. I think she was somebody who was deeply lonely.
I think the paintings show it. Her disconnection between herself and space and anything that's around her. In those paintings. It's all about some kind of isolation. Which, you know, having polio and staying in a room for whatever it was, you know, a long, many, many months would give her a sense of being isolated.
Stechler: Interesting she chose a man who needed more attention than she did and who primary mode was to abandon her over and over again. Herrera: Well, that happens a lot in human beings.
I mean, if you have neglectful parents, you immediately look for a neglectful man. Stechler: Why do you think she was so bonded to him? Herrera: To Rivera? Well, you know, she was always saying it was because she loved his bosoms and he loved her mustache. I mean, they loved this side of each other.
But I think she was attached to him, well, in the beginning partly because he was famous, and then he was much older so he could be a bit. You know, I guess she adored her father and Rivera's being older that might have a connection here. But I think he was just brilliant and funny and charming, and for many people he seemed rather sexy, I think.
I mean his brains made him very sexually attractive to women. And also the fact that he loved women and loved to talk to women. He thought women were more interesting than men to talk to. So that helped. Stechler: When do people start to recognize her as a painter?
Herrera: When I was doing the research, which was in the second half of the seventies, she was not really very well known. In Mexico, she was known as Diego Rivera's sort of peculiar wife with the strange little paintings that most people really didn't like very much. They were too peculiar. And too weird. They are weird. I mean, we've gotten used to them now, but they still are kind of weird.
And in the United States, I don't think many people had heard of her. Anyway, I think Frida Kahlo's fame began in the late '70s and had a lot to do with feminism, had a lot to do with the chicana people in the United Lonely women in Hayden Arizona loving having this sort of emblem of Mexicanidad and loving her whole story, because it's a painful one.
Stechler: During her lifetime, there's a point where, in the early '40's I guess, when people start to become, when Julian Levy notices her, and she gets brought to Paris, and people actually, like Edward G. Robinson, people actually begin to buy her work. Herrera: Well, Edward G. Robinson did buy her work, because Rivera took him to her studio. Rivera was extraordinarily supportive of Frida Kahlo's painting. Because she wasn't methodical about her work habits.
In, so occasionally people would buy. But it was mostly friends, or people that Rivera would bring. And Frida was always very surprised if anybody liked her work. I think about Robinson, she said, "He must be in love with me. I mean, he bought my paintings, he must be in love with me. Julian Levy was a very surrealist oriented gallery, so Breton made that connection for her. And then Breton also got her to show in Paris. It was part of a much bigger show of Mexican art in general, and she had all the paintings that were in the Julian Levy show then traveled to Paris with Frida.
She went to both of those shows. But I, this was And it was a moment, it wasn't a great moment to be in Europe having a show. The war was about to start. And not that much attention was paid to that show. I mean, she didn't become famous, and she didn't sell that many paintings. And she never had a show in Mexico until the year before died. When her health had deteriorated so much that her friend, Lola Alvarez Bravo, thought, "This woman needs to have a show while she can still know about it.
And Frida loved having that show. It meant a lot to her to have a show in Mexico. Stechler: Do you think she's a great painter? Herrera: Yes I do. I sometimes wondered about it while I was writing the book. I don't think I wrote the book because I thought she was a great painter. I thought she was fascinating. And, but I wasn't sure. Because my training was mainly in European modernism, and this is a long way from European modernism, and it's a long way from Matisse and Picasso, and I was totally brought up to think that that was the kind of thing that was beautiful and Frida Kahlo didn't look beautiful to me in the beginning.
It looked compelling.
But in, over the years, I'll wander through the Museum of Modern Art and there's a couple of Frida's often that are hanging.Lonely women in Hayden Arizona
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