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Frida Kahlo: An Open Life
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Raquel Tibol

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Rekindled interest in the life of Frida Kahlo is in full force. Nevertheless, this biography is a useful addition to the numerous books that have come out in the past seven years (e.g., Martha Zamora, Frida Kahlo: The Brush of Anguish , LJ 1/91; Hayden Herrera, Frida Kahlo: The Paintings , LJ 5/15/92). For one thing, it is written by a respected Mexican art critic and friend of Kahlo. For another, it adheres closely to source material such as diaries, letters, and exhibition catalogs. It is refreshing to note that unlike many publications, the book does not focus on the sexual behavior of the artist or her husband, Diego Rivera. Instead, the reader is given a generous dose of Kahlo's political and artistic views. Unfortunately, this is sometimes done at the expense of pleasurable reading. An inexpensive counterbalance from 1983 now in English.-- Susan M. Olcott, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., Ohio

"Kahlo's frank discussions with Tibol about the psychosexual symbolism in her paintings makes this a valuable source for those who want to understand her art."
Kahlos frank discussions with Tibol about the psychosexual symbolism in her paintings makes this a valuable source for those who want to understand her art.

Tibol, a Mexican art critic, befriended Frida Kahlo in 1953, a year before her death. She portrays the Mexican painter as a strangely beautiful woman, an artist whose ``pitiless immersion in the subconscious'' yielded a ``stern and tragic surrealism'' with roots in Mexican folklore and photorealist painting. Originally published in Spain in 1983 and now ably translated into English for the first time, this sometimes sketchy yet intimately revealing biography splices the author's impressions, excerpts from Kahlo's journals, letters to her husband Diego Rivera, interviews, medical records and oral testimony by Kahlo. A bus accident in which she was involved at age 18 made the painter's life an ordeal of constant physical suffering. Tibol probes the spiritual strength that enabled Kahlo to rebel against adversity. In her view Kahlo was maternal toward the obsessive, childish Rivera, yet their marriage was nevertheless one of mutual nourishment, growth and support. Kahlo's frank discussions with Tibol about the psychosexual symbolism in her paintings makes this a valuable source for those who want to understand her art. Photos. (Apr.)

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