April 31, 1927
"I feel suffocated, my lungs and whole back hurt terribly; I can't even touch my leg. I can hardly walk, let alone sleep. Imagine, they hung me by just my head for two and a half hours... I'm going to have this martyrdom for three or four months, and if I don't get well with that, I sincerely want to die, because I can't stand it anymore. It's not only the physical suffering, but also that I don't have the least entertainment. I never leave this room, I can't do anything, I can't walk" (The Letters of Frida Kahlo, compiled by Martha Zamora, Chronicle Books, 31).
We often think about healing in a linear manner, that is, with every passing day, we gradually get better, but that's not how the healing process often unfolds. Frida discovered this after her accident. She entered the Red Cross Hospital on September 17, 1925, but in April of 1927, she's still struggling to find her way back to health. The plaster corset was supposed to strengthen her spine and heal her sciatic nerve pain. If it did, it only lasted a short while because she would wear more corsets and contraptions throughout her life and undergo many surgeries.
In some ways, the "martyrdom" never left Frida, but she tried to present a vivaciousness to her friends. Adelina Zendejas remembers: "When we went to see her when she was sick, she played, she laughed, she commented, she made caustic criticisms, witticisms, and wise opinions. If she cried, no one knew it" (Boletin del Grupo Preparatorio 1920-1924, no. 44). Another friend, Lola Alvarez Bravo, put it this way: "The struggle for the two Fridas was in her always, the struggle between one dead Frida and one Frida that was alive." (Interview with David and Karen Crommie).
Painting was one way for the dead Frida to create life. Even if she couldn't walk, she could paint. One month after she wrote this letter about her corset, she informed Alejandro that she was working on a portrait of their friend Miguel Lira, nicknamed Chong Lee because of his love for Chinese poets. Tomorrow, I'll try to upload the painting and begin by discussing it and some of the other paintings she created around this time.