FRIDA KAHLO (1907–54) was nobody’s angel, but she ended up a saint. A living retort to the severed torsos of male surrealist fantasy, her body was remade by misfortune in an often-tortured life, and her identity reconceived on her easel in a pantheon of imagined personalities and possible states of being — on otherworldly plains, primeval forests, hellish institutional wastelands and emotional purgatories. Monumental muralists like her husband Diego Rivera sought the scope of the world, but Frida spoke on the scale of the mind; artworks intimate in every sense, windows on her soul that reflected feelings that no one could speak. Her painted testament made her a diarist of every woman’s history and every misfit’s life cycle, undergoing rejection and betrayal and expected violent ends and ascendant hope and vision. And now she’s bigger than a mural, a guardian spirit on votive candles and trendy totebags, as big as everything but somehow withstanding the commercialized image of her historical contemporaries. And that’s no accident; figures like Fidel and Che have their eyes on the top, while Frida wanted to stay on the outside, looking inward and seeing clearly. Having died young and lived wisely and kept meaning something, she’s become the surest surrogate many of us have for a religious presence, and the strongest symbol of eventual haven for different, truthful souls. Mother, sister, unknown best friend; somehow one of us, and, forever, all of herself.
READ MORE about members of the Partisan (1904-13) Generation.