“Oh my God!”, Mikey exclaimed as he read about Frida Kahlo for the first time, “she’s like someone you would be crazy about; a painter AND disabled!” Later he added that if she were alive, I’d probably be stalking her.
I started my “Frida Period” when I lived in Tucson, Arizona about 20 years ago. I was mad-crazy about her for about 5 years, buying every book I could get my hands on about her, collecting prints of her paintings, photographs of her were all over my apartments… Frida Kahlo for me was what ponies are for most other girls.
And then, I just stopped.
I felt sated with what I had, I felt like art around me was saturated with her, I felt like she was turning into an mass-produced icon without depth or relevance. So I quit.
Fast forward to last week when we were waiting in line to enter the Frida Kahlo museum in Coyoacan, Mexico. I started choking up seeing the blue of Casa Azul, just like that, the flood of memories came to me. All the hours spent pondering photos of her, absorbing her paintings.
In her place, it was overwhelming to see her actual clothes on display.
It was overwhelming too, to see the actual spaces of her life. Her garden.
It was like she was caught on edge – between living, expressing and explaining her life. She was walking a line between making herself desirable, beautiful and existing authentically.
Who knows this feeling? Who doesn’t know this feeling?
Frida Kahlo’s life, visage and work has been overexposed and that’s a crying shame. Because she remains relevant simply by dint of her artistic, pioneering spirit. She took the conversation on disability to a new level; she probed and exposed her realities, she made what was once hidden, accessible to the non-disabled. She spoke in a way that was understood, through the language of art.
She painted in the fluid colours of her emotions.
The museum is free for people with disabilities and appears to be largely wheelchair accessible.
I was wondering about how wheelchairs got into her studio/bedroom – and how guests to the museum can access them from a wheelchair?
Also: we got there around noon. The line to get in was long but moved quickly. It was fine. The cafe is anemic; if you have kids, you might want to bring your own snacks (there are plenty of great tables for sitting down at in the back).
The gift shop is also a little on the scant side. Kind of made me sad that I’ve seen cooler Frida stuff in Oakland than in the Casa Azul, but there you go.
It’s a great place to wear out kids
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.