Friday, January 15, 2010

The Lacuna and Frida Kahlo

I just finished The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver and, despite some fairly minor issues, I really enjoyed it. It's a work of historical fiction whose main character, Harrison Shepherd, is a sort of observer among some extremely well-known people including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Lev "Leon" Trotsky. Like the meaning of the word lacuna, the book of Shepherd's journal entries, newspaper clippings, and letters has a few gaps, leaving the reader to his/her imagination to fill them.

The book has been a top seller since its release and, other than Kingsolver's reputation and the success of The Poisonwood Bible, I think part of the reason for that might be the inclusion of Frida Kahlo. In fact, Kahlo's appearances were my favorite parts of The Lacuna; Kingsolver characterizes and writes dialogue for Kahlo very closely to how I've imagined her. In the novel, Kahlo is strong-willed, defiant, and intelligent, but Kingsolver also manages to write in those more elusive Frida qualities that I've never been able to define or pinpoint. Perhaps it is these qualities that contribute to her being such a huge celebrity today. Her artwork is obviously revered, but, for me, it is her personality, so central to her paintings, that have kept me enamored with her.

Some of the best biographical sources on Frida can be found in books at the library or via our online databases accessible to anyone with a library card. Of course, there are a few good resources courtesy of Google too, vetted by this librarian and recommended for your reading and viewing pleasure.

The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Portrait

Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo: Song of Herself

The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo (DVD)

*Require an Austin Public Library card, if accessing from home

(With an internet connection and a library card, you can access JSTOR from the comfort of your own home. Use the titles to do a search for the two excellent articles below. Need assistance? Ask a Librarian!)
  • "Fashioning National Identity: Frida Kahlo in 'Gringolandia'" - Very interesting article on Frida's indigenous style of dress and national identity
  • "What Frida Kahlo Thought of the Suicide of Dorothy Hale, 1939" - Frida's thoughts on Dorothy Hale's suicide and her painting of it
"I Made a Picture of My Life - A Life From the Picture: The Life of the Body in the Pictures and Writings of Frida Kahlo"

Frida Kahlo Bibliography
"The most complete Frida Kahlo bibliography on the web"

Frida Kahlo Corporation

Frida Kahlo: The Complete Works

All of her paintings on one website

Kahlo Fakes Flood Into Mexico
Over the past few months a number of articles have been written about a rise in Frida forgeries. This article addresses that as well as the new book, Finding Frida Kahlo by Barbara Levine, in which a newly discovered Kahlo archive is on display; however, a number of Frida experts question the authenticity of the archive. Check FindIt in a few weeks for Finding Frida Kahlo - it's on order for the library.

The Real Frida Kahlo
Excellent article from

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