Anyone who knows anything about Frida, knows that she was in a life threatening bus/trolley accident when she was eighteen. On September 17, 1925, Frida and her boyfriend Alejandro Gomez Arias caught a new shiny bus in downtown Mexico City. As they were sitting on the long bench, they felt the bus sway when the bus driver tried to pass a trolley that was turning a corner. The electric trolley went right through the bus, splitting it apart. Frida ended up in a puddle of blood with gold powder shimmering all over her nude body.
This sounds like a made up story, but Alejandro, who was alright, recounted it to Hayden Herrera when she was writing her biography. So how did Frida end up nude with gold on her blood stained body? Apparently, the force of the accident was so great that it stripped off her clothes and some gold flakes that a man on the bus was carrying landed on Frida's body. People began to shout: "the ballerina, the ballerina" because they thought she was a dancer. The beauty of the red and gold shimmering body gave way to horror when Alejandro realized that Frida's pelvis had been impaled by a metal rod. The scene was chaotic. Alejandro picked Frida up and a man noticed the metal rod and said he should take it out. He did and Frida screamed so loud that it drowned out the sound of the sirens. Alejandro covered Frida's body with his coat and waited for an ambulance to take her to the Red Cross Hospital. He thought she was going to die. Once Frida was brought in to the hospital, he was relieved; however, this feeling soon turned to fear as he realized that the doctors weren't interested in Frida because they wanted to work on the patients they thought had the best chance for survival. Alejandro pleaded with the doctors to look at his girlfriend. They finally did and decided to operate. Alejandro saved her life. If he wasn't there, the doctors probably wouldn't have gotten to Frida in time to save her.
She was lucky she survived, but the trauma and life long spinal, pelvic, and leg injuries changed her life forever. Why does an accident like this change someone's outlook on life? The answer seems obvious, but I'd be curious to hear more details about how it feels to wake up after the operation. How do you feel when you are not able to walk at all? How do you feel when you can take a few steps? How do you feel when you are able to walk? How do you feel in your new "broken" body? How do you feel about death? How do you feel about life? Do you appreciate life more or is it agony because of the physical pain and limitations? Do you ever ride a bus or electric trolley again? If you do, are you terrified? How do you feel several years after the accident? Are you burdened by fears or, just the opposite, are you less burdened by fears because you survived such a horrendous accident? Frida gives us some clues about how she felt after her accident, but she didn't write extensively about it.
Here, in this drawing seen above that she made on the one year anniversary of the accident, we can see that it was still fresh in her mind. Our eyes immediately zero in on her bandaged body that lies on a stretcher in the foreground. Her head is tilted toward us, the onlookers, but her eyes are closed. Is she dead or just unconscious? Directly behind Frida, we see the bus/trolley accident in the upper part of the composition. The trolley is drawn with a fair amount of detail, but the people strewn about on the ground are flat and sketch-like. At the bottom on the drawing, Frida writes the date, her name, and (Accidente). This inscription is reminiscent of retablos, small religious paintings that were made by untrained artists to depict a life threatening event and the divine intervention that saved a loved one's life. Usually, an inscription at the bottom or on the top details what happened and thanks Mary or the Virgin of Guadalupe for saving their loved one's life. It's interesting that Frida doesn't thank anyone. The information is merely factual. Frida was raised Catholic and it's clear from letters that she was a believer, but I wonder if her faith was waning at this point? Eventually, she renounces Catholicism for communism.
Frida did give thanks in a retablo that she bought with a bus/trolley accident depicted. She painted her body lying on the ground as if thrown from the bus into the already painted retablo and had her parents thank the Virgin of Sorrows for saving their daughter. This repainted retablo doesn't have a date to tell us when she repainted it. Therefore, it is possible that she repainted it shortly after the accident when she was feeling thankful and that the drawing, which came a year after the accident, reveals a Frida who has had more time to reflect upon her physical and emotional state. Perhaps, a year after the accident, she's tiring of her new broken body that prevents her from being a "real street wanderer," as she tells Alejandro in a letter. What do you think?
Although Frida had enjoyed art before the accident, she had no plans of becoming an artist. She wanted to be a doctor. With time on her hands, she devoted herself to art.