Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Frida Kahlo love and farewell letter

I am reading Frida, the biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera, as I realised I didn't know that much about this important artist, beyond her looks, marriage to Diego Rivera and bisexuality.

During her loving yet tempestuous marriage to Rivera, they both had many affairs. When Frida was in New York for her first solo exhibition in 1938, she fell in love with Nicholas Murray, a portrait photographer working for Harper's Bazaar and other mags who had helped her organise the show during a visit to Mexico. During her stay in Paris in 1939 (she despised the town and was not impressed by many of the Surrealist painters she met there), the affair floundered as she felt the need to return to Mexico to be with Diego and Murray got involved with a woman he eventually married that year.

Murray wrote to her:

"I knew NY only filled the bill as a temporary substitute and I hope you found your haven intact on your return. Of the three of us there were only two of you. I always felt that. Your tears told me that when you heard his voice. The one of me is eternally grateful for the Happiness that the half of you so generously gave. (...) When you left I knew it was all over. Your instinct guided you so wisely. You have done the only logical thing for I could not transplant Mexico to NY for you and I've learned how essential that was for your happiness."

Frida later wrote him a farewell which includes this paragraph I find extremely moving:

"I want to ask from you a great favor, please, send by mail the little cushion, I don't want anybody else to have it. I promise to make another one for you, but I want that one you have now on the couch downstairs, near the window. Another favour: Don't let "her" touch the fire signals on the stairs (you know which ones). If you can, and it isn't too much trouble, don't go to Coney Island, specially to the Half Moon, with her. Take down the photo of myself which was on the fire place, and put it in Mam's room in the shop, I am sure she still likes me as much as she did before. Besides it is not so nice for the other lady to see my portrait in your house. I wish I could tell you many things but I think it is no use to both you. I hope you will understand without words all my wishes..."

OK maybe it is a bit OTT but isn't it heartbreaking? I could suddenly imagine some precious moments they had spent together "on the couch downstairs", playing with the fire signals, or on a day out to Coney Island, ending with a dinner at the Half Moon.

It made wonder: if my current relationship broke apart, what would I ask my partner to give back to me or not do with anyone else because it would be too sad for me to know he could enjoy them without me? After ten years together, it is surprisingly hard to think of anything - I don't think "If you can, and it isn't too much trouble, don't go to Nando's, specially the one in Mile End" conjures the same feeling as Frida's letter, and actually I wouldn't feel right telling him not to do something, either because it is not realistic or actually it would be unlikely that he would do them again anyway, so the ask would be unrealistic (eg go camping in Carpinteria, California).

I think I'd simply be more direct in my begging not to be forgotten:

Think of me if you ever return to Portland, and how young we were on our first holiday together there.
Think of me every January when you have a galette des rois.
When you hear this song, remember how we tried to play it on the guitar one evening and you were too stoned to cope, how we laughed.

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