Kahlo, Frida. The Broken Column. Oil on masonite. Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City.
Frida Kahlo’s self portrait, The Broken Column is a reflection of her reality. The painted self-portrait depicts Kahlo standing naked in a barren landscape. Kahlo’s flesh is split down the middle of her torso to reveal a shattered column in place of her spine. A brace holds her body together. Her skin is pierced with needles. Tears fall onto her cheeks although her facial expression and body language remain stoic.
While Kahlo’s work has been associated with surrealism, she denies that her work fits this category. She claims that surrealism is about a fantasy world while her work merely depicts her reality. At age 18, in a near fatal bus crash Kahlo was impaled by a metal rod leading to chronic pain. At the time of painting this self-portrait, Kahlo continued to undergo surgeries in unsuccessful attempts to relieve her from her pain. Kahlo’s self portrait as an artist with disabilities aims to represent her suffering. Other disabled artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec do not explicitly reveal their indifference (Mirzoeff 48) whereas for Kahlo her work is about revealing her subjective reality and constant suffering.
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to See the World. London: Pelican, 2015. Print.