We often speak of the sculpting metaphor when referring to the cutting and polishing of our speeches and learning centers, and recently, I have been chiselling at the final touches of both. My speech has only been tweaked slightly since I had first (machete) edited my first draft, to accomodate transitions between performances (it is arranged that I am following the illustrious Miranda Sings), and the only thing left to do in that area is find time to practice, practice, then practice a bit more. But since my last post gave no true explanation for the reasons I chose to comment upon the points that I did in my speech, allow me to elaborate.
Although I have chosen not to illustrate a specifc ‘snapshot’ moment or event in my speech, I have instead decided to address the conept Frida’s balance of surrealism and reality within her paintings. Although many have labelled her as a surrealist painter, she has incorporated so intimately the realities of her suffering in her work, which makes it difficult to dismiss her paintings as purely imaginative of dream-like. Of course it is necessary to acknowledge that there is a spectrum of realism within her paintings, from her most literal reprentations of people and still life to her most extravagant otherworldy images, but both polar opposites hold meaning and relevance in her life. Thus the ‘surreal’ paintings that she created still were rooted in the very real aspects of her experience.
Faced with this issue of artistic labels, I believed it be a quite appropriate topic to hear from Frida’s perspective, which how my speech came to be. In the speech, I portray her as feeling almost belittled by the term ‘surreal’, as if it was invalidating her own experiences, and in turn, invalidating her as an artist. She continues on to show that because she herself was so deeply connected with her work, her painted image actually denoted the essence of her real person. Although I have based this view on only an interpretation from Frida’s quotes and her outlooks expressed in her biography, I have tried to stay true to her values and morals. In fact, what I consider to be the pinnacle of my speech’s purpose, the quote “I do not paint dreams, I paint my own reality“, comes from Frida Kahlo herself. The final version can be viewed below.
They called me surreal, but my image is an honest one. I choose to paint my features on to canvas simply I am the subject I know best. Most would consider my work too tragic to be anything of this world, but tragedy, it is an old friend of mine.
In childhood, polio shrunk my left leg, and at eighteen years old, a streetcar accident left me cut and bloodied, seeming as if more bones in my body were more broken than not, left with a spine that never did heal. And yet, the ‘art enthusiasts’ of New York and Paris look at my paintings and call them surreal! They say, ‘This, this is the work of the imagination, of dreams’ But I do not paint dreams, I paint my own reality.
Because what is not real about me? What is not real about the thorns that have been tearing at my neck for my entire life? Or my spine, which has only become more cracked and broken over all these years? When you see this painted on canvas, how do you not call this real? Because what is not real about mother or father or lover, or my husband’s lover’s? About my virginity taken by a streetcar cable piercing my womb, or the blood that spilled out of me after my aborted baby? This world is all too real to me. Because it is me. It’s me that’ll you’ll see on hanging on gallery walls long after the day I am dead. Me, Loco Frida, Peg- leg Frida, all of me, Frida.