Finding Frida Kahlo.
By Barbara Levine with Stephen Jaycox.
Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2009. 256 pp., 250 color illustrations, 8½x11".
'Let's go see the Frida Kahlos.'
It seemed inconceivable that after decades of exhibitions, auctions, books, and movies, unpublished Frida Kahlo artwork could still be found anywhere, much less a shop in a converted textile factory. 'Well, if you don't believe me just come along,' replied her traveling companion. Levine, having recently relocated to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, could not resist and was soon en route to La Buhardilla Antiquarios (The Attic Antiques).
Down an arched stone corridor in a small back room sat two wooden chests, a metal trunk, a wooden box, and a battered old suitcase. On the lid of the suitcase was the name 'Sra. KAHLO DE RIVERA.' The shop owners opened the five cases to reveal a jumble of objects, including paintings, drawings, keepsake boxes, annotated books, clothing, a diary, and other assorted items and ephemera. Levine picked up one of ten airmail letters, inscribed with the words 'personal archive of Frida K. and personal archive of my private life.'
Finding Frida Kahlo presents, for the first time in print, an astonishing lost archive of one of the twentieth century's most revered artists. Hidden from view for over half a century, this richly illustrated, intimate portrait overflows with fascinating details about Kahlo's romances, friendships, and business affairs during a three-decade period, beginning in the 1920s when she was a teenager and ending just before she died in 1954. Full of ardent desires, seething fury, and outrageous humor, Finding Frida Kahlo is a rare glimpse into an exuberant and troubled existence: A vivid diary entry records her sexual encounter with a woman named Doroti; a painted box contains eleven stuffed hummingbirds, concealed beneath a letter in which she laments her discovery that her husband, Diego Rivera, had been monstrously dissecting 'these beautiful creatures' to extract an aphrodisiac; an altered French medical book describes the pain she was suffering from the amputation of her right leg, written by Kahlo upon pages that illustrate an amputation technique; a letter to a friend expresses her loneliness, and a simple request for coconut candies. Frida Kahlo never wrote an autobiography. Instead, she left behind a much more complex material universe. Finding Frida Kahlo offers scholars and fans alike an opportunity to examine firsthand Kahlo's secret world and draw their own conclusions about how she imagined her place in it.
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