The Broken Column

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Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column, 1944
By REID GUEMMER

Frida Kahlo is known as one of the most iconic modern Mexican artists. She was an incredibly talented and fearless woman with the ambition to succeed and represent Mexican culture. Kahlo depicted graphic scenes disregarding the audience’s comfort level with the subjects. While doing so she incorporated native symbols and messages. By portraying the pain she endured along side the love she held for her country, Kahlo believed that slowly she will "be able to solve my problems and survive”.


You don’t need much background to realize women are poorly represented throughout art history. I don’t believe the intention of art historians is to purposely exclude female artists, although there is an apparent dominance in the field. It is a rare occasion that we come across an influential woman taking part in the making of art rather than sitting for the creation of it. Unfortunately, there is hardly any choice when studying the subject of art history because the vast majority of those who chose to become artists, and are successful, are men. With this taken into consideration, rarely do we see a female artist achieve the success Kahlo did, and there is no other artist I would rather have represent myself and the women of both my past, present, and future generation. 


Kahlo and her boyfriend at the time, Alex Gomiez Arias, had just finished up a day exploring Mexico City. Together they boarded a nearly full bus to return home. The bus driver was going through the motions when he made a hasty decision to turn in front of a trolley, causing the life-altering accident. Kahlo was only 18 when she suffered extensive injuries including a broken spinal column and pelvis, and countless other injuries. Among others, a pole pierced her uterus, destroying the possibility of her ever being able to bear children. The Broken Column expresses the physical consequences of the accident. Kahlo's spine has been replaced with a crumbling column and needles pierce her skin. Perhaps the most powerful part of the painting is the eye contact Kahlo holds with the viewer as she manages to keep a strong face while tears stream from her eyes. In the background we see a grassy landscape with the ocean in scope. The bus accident of 1925 would serve as a constant source of inspiration for Kahlo and her development as an artist.


Painting was Kahlo’s chosen medium to cope with the trauma she endured. A therapeutic vocation she used to express both her physical and emotional pain. Kahlo was overshadowed by the fame of her muralist husband, Diego Riviera, despite her exceedingly impressive skill and technique. In recent years Kahlo’s popularity has greatly heightened, diminishing the overcast shadow of her husband and claiming her role as a representative artist of Mexico.


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