On a typical Irish afternoon, hiding from the rain in my favourite bookstore (Charlie Byrne’s), I came across with a new book written about one of my favourite painters; Frida Kahlo, Song of Herself by Salomon Grimber. My first reaction was ‘ah not again’ since there have been so many boring works published on her life, repeating and twisting the traumatising events Frida Kahlo had gone through over and over again, transforming her into of a victim rather than an enigmatic woman.
However, when I took a closer look at the cover, Hayden Herrera’s name caught my eyes and I knew straight that this book could not only be great, but a breath of fresh air, holding plenty of new information about Kahlo’s life.
I was right. Moreover, I got so much more from that book than I had expected; an insight into Kahlo’s true personality, revealing her true face under her many masks.
The book is based on the several interviews and tests that psychology student, Olga Campos carried out with Kahlo in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The aim of her thesis was to research the creative process in artistic individuals through exploring different areas of their lives. Therefore, Kahlo talks about her attitude towards life, death, relationships, sex, food, social conscience, etc.
Despite Campos’ plan to publish her analysis, the interviews never got printed in her lifetime; moreover, the original documents were saved in the very last moment from being eaten by rats. Thanks to Grimberg’s enduring exploration, who is a well-known art historian and psychoanalytic, a so far unknown chapter of Kahlo’s life has been unfurled.
Yet, this chapter can only be read and understood with empathy and loving compassion due to Frida Kahlo’s elaborate complexities, dark depths and her self-created solitude.
The book Frida Kahlo, A Song of Herself is definitely a must read for all the admirers of Frida Kahlo.
I dedicate this article to Szonja,
my inspiration, my sun, my love, my soul sister.