There is nothing better than a good story especially when the storyteller captures our imagination with his or her words and expressions. I love to listen to personal stories. When I was young, my family would gather on Sundays and reminisce about our teenage experiences. I was the youngest of 12 children so I didn’t say much but I listened with a bit of shock and awe at some of the stories my brothers told about their escapades. I am pretty sure that some of their stories were embellished a bit and came as a surprise to the ears that were listening, including my parents. They were an adventurous bunch and I listened with rapt attention to their tales of high speed, devilish pranks and some really clever wit. I was enamored with their words and maybe a little naïve about believing some of their antics. It was a fun time.
Another artist on display at the museum was the Mexican artist, Frida Kahloe, who was known for her self-portraits, her passionate nature and her bold use of vibrant colors. Frida’s early life was also filled with the pain as she suffered from polio at the age of 6 years, which affected her walk. At the age of 18 years, she was involved in a terrible bus accident, which left her with a severely broken body. Unbelievably, in her 47 years of life, she endured 34 surgeries to repair her brokenness. As a student, she intended to focus on medicine, however after the bus accident, and being confined to a bed for many months, she began to develop her artistic abilities through painting. She lived a physically and emotionally painful life, spending a good portion of her life in a hospital bed recovering from surgery. On a personal level, she was entangled in a very public tumultuous relationship with her artistic husband. When you look into the eyes of her self-portraits, you can see real pain, sadness and resilience. Her paintings are splashed with bold, rich colors that shout her story of strength and power in such a way that words could not.
What I appreciate about these two artists is their willingness to give us a glimpse into their somewhat tortured lives. I wonder if fear drove them to paint with such fierceness and extraordinary intuition of their inner pain. As the story goes, Dali had a constant fear that he would be known only as a replacement for his brother. Did fear and sadness drive Frida to paint her self-portraits in order to show the world her pain? Near one of her paintings, this was written, “I paint my self-portraits because I am so often alone and because I am the person I know best.” Both Dali and Frida’s artwork is so dramatic, intense and full of emotion that I wonder if they ever found what they were looking for hidden in their painted stories.
Spending the afternoon looking into the lives of Dali and Frida has me contemplating my own story. What would my life look like in pictures? How is my life defined by my choices and actions? While I love art, I am not blessed with the skill to paint my life on a canvas. But wait, a friend pointed out to me that my life started as a blank canvas and with each new experience, struggle, pain, joy, peace or even dream, new colors are added to my picture. My life is a developing story that is rich in creative design and exploding with vibrant colors. Some of those colors even reflect those Sunday afternoon chats with my mischievous brothers. What is your story?