Women Artists Coping With Illness: Frida Kahlo

Women Artists Coping With Illness: Frida Kahlo
Art and medicine is a partnering that has healed many bodies and souls. To the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, her painting was therapy. After being stricken with polio as a child and then surviving a bus accident, Ms. Kahlo used her time alone to express her inner feelings of pain and fear.

Frida Kahlo painted in a style uniquely her own: part Mexican folk art, part surrealism. The double self portrait "The Two Fidas" (1939) was painted during her separation and divorce from her husband, artist Diego Rivera. On the left of the painting is the unloved Frida in a wedding dress. Her heart is broken and blood is dripping from an artery into her lap. On the right is the woman who Diego loved, Frida dressed in the traditional Mexican costume.

Ms. Kahlo died in 1954 from pneumonia as reported by her doctors. There is speculation, however, that she may have committed suicide.

Other women dealing with illness or disease search for their identity through art. For example, women who have experienced cancer express themselves to better cope with the horror of this devastating disease. It's been said that one must "experience darkness to appreciate the light." Color is life and when someone chooses life over death, art becomes the medicine to restored health.

In 2004 Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company, held an international art competition, "Oncology on Canvas: Expressions of a Woman's Cancer Journey." The competition was open to cancer surviviors, family members, friends and caregivers, healthcare professionals, artists and art students. The results were incredible. A panel of judges selected the winners and in 2005, they began a world tour, raising awareness of the benefits of art therapy.

The events of September 11,2001 can be compared to that of the cancer experience. We questioned our mortality and the frailty of life itself. What is important in your life? To quote the title of an Academy Award winning movie, "Life Is Beautiful."


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This content was written by Camille Gizzarelli. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Camille Gizzarelli for details.