Monday, February 04, 2008


"Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick," by Frida Kahlo

A Frida Kahlo retrospective is coming to the Philadelphia Museum of Art later this month. The mega bookstore chain where I work has of course made certain to have every single book about her and her work displayed front and center. And of course they're selling. This bookstore is located in a neighborhood of millionaires and billionaires called Rittenhouse Square. It's a strange place, especially to someone with white trash roots like me, and yet it's a fascinating STUDY, listening closely to these people, watching them interact in their zoo of affluence. Like today, it's an unseasonable 50 degrees, and these two jewel-encrusted women fresh from the salon exchange little hello kisses. Then the one says, "OH, it's SO WARM I can't wear my new mink coat!" (imagine her saying "coat" drawn out into an elongated whine and you've got it!) The other one says, "OH, I know! I know!" OH, these poor, poor women! Just another day in the filth of the darkest possible side of the human condition where even the weather can hamper a life stocked full of boredom and stupidity!

In the past five years Americans in the top five percent income brackets have INCREASED their wealth by an average forty percent. Keep this in mind, always, please, in our time of war.

But I LOVE to fuck with these people whenever it's possible in order to continue to enrich my studies! My studies in The Laboratory of the Rich, or whatever it's called, no official "class" title as of yet (yes, I pun badly, give me a break). But Frida has provided a new opportunity! When the wealthy art lovers of Rittenhouse bring their Frida books to the counter I always say enthusiastically, "FRIDA KAHLO IS MY FAVORITE COMMUNIST!" I wish this could be filmed, you really HAVE TO SEE the contempt reveal itself in a pinch beneath the remarkably thin layer of poise that got them to the counter with their vibrantly colored Frida souvenirs.

The conversations have been interesting to say the least. Most recently one man laughed and said, "WELL, her politics were misguided, but her art is THANKFULLY separate from her politics!" I flipped quickly through his book to the painting, "Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick," and I said, pointing, "That's Karl Marx over her shoulder, see?" He rolled his eyes, "Okay, just ring me up please!" Isn't that funny? He's buying a book with Karl Marx's portrait in it, but Frida Kahlo's politics were misguided, OH, and separate let's not forget! That's pretty damned funny!

And by the way, ARE HER POLITICS SEPARATE FROM HER ART? Even if it's a painting of fruit and birds? Wasn't the artist a whole person? Wasn't she the PERSON she was, with all of her experiences and passion for those who suffer and need, wasn't she this PERSON, always this PERSON, painting, or laughing, fucking, living? I'd like to see what kind of paintings these assholes in their mink coats and Armani suits would paint THAT'S MY POINT! The PERSON who painted these paintings everyone wants to gather around to celebrate was an amalgamation of many finely sharpened splinters of intelligence and emotion and all of these different parts were communing with each other to be the whole one behind the paint brush, at least that's how I see it. And there's no denying FRIDA! WAS! RED!

The reactions have been SO SEVERE with my little experiment that I've decided I MUST make a T-shirt for the show at the art museum! A white shirt with big red letters on front and back that read:


At the 2003 Oscars, actor Gael Garcia Bernal came to the microphone to introduce the song "Burn it Blue," nominated for an Oscar for the film FRIDA, and he became emotional when stating that if Frida Kahlo were alive she would be against the American war in Iraq. I didn't see the Oscars, but heard about his statement the next day more than once in the context of, "WHAT'S HIS PROBLEM!?" What's his problem? It was one of those moments, when your country is at war, and suffering is a daily, chronic bloody reality, and you REALLY SEE how your fellow citizens are living a life of OPEN denial, with their little twists of collective glib exclamation no less. Bernal's near burst of tears when making his antiwar statement get translated with annoyance the next day and it's a new opportunity to MAYBE NOT UNDERSTAND but maybe GET A BIGGER IMPACT of how confusing war is in everyday life, especially from the perspective of the country doing the aggressing, the country NOT being bombed, the country with a million people NOT killed and able to walk around eating ice cream, chocolate, strawberry, YUMMY! Are we really at war? Are you sure? Some days I'm not sure how to feel about feeling or not feeling about it. And you, you are on my mind too, and maybe I'm on yours?

Maybe the threshold of pain is very different from what it has seemed to be?


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