What Would Frida Do?

On July 6, 2018, at 9:45pm, I emerged from my daughter's bed and shuffled sluggishly to the sofa. It was late and I had yet to oxy-clean my son's white baseball pants for the morning or finish the dishes. I was lazily staring into space (as you do when you should be sleeping) when the urge struck to start the blog I've been wanting to write for months now.
 July 6 was also Frida Kahlo's birthday.
So at 10:30pm, I opened my laptop and started to write.

It made sense to begin with Frida.

My Mom is a painter. She was always fascinated with Frida and her fascination became mine. On the wall of her makeshift studio, my mom had a print of one of Frida's self-portraits. As a child, I didn't understand it. Art to me was rainbows, daisies and puppies. What did this woman's solemn stare mean? Taking only side glances at her weighty unibrow, I felt her gaze ominous and mysterious. I later learned that it was titled, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940.

The symbolism in this portrait is unmistakable. Frida's gaze is direct and stoic. Thorns, seemingly tied by a black monkey, encircle her neck. The hold is so tight, her neck is punctured and bleeding. On the right, behind her shoulder, sits a black cat while a lifeless hummingbird hangs on the thorn that knots around her throat. But Frida is not a victim, there is still hope and transformation hovering amongst the verdant tropical leaves and butterflies that surround her.

Childhood disease, a crippling trolley accident, chronic pain, miscarriages, betrayal, abortion, depression, a lifetime of surgeries: Frida was a fierce survivor. She sustained multiple injuries, including a fractured spine and pelvis, when the bus she was riding collided with a streetcar. Once discharged from the hospital, Frida was bedridden with chronic pain. She was 18-years-old. But, instead of lamenting all the things she couldn't do, Frida began painting on a special easel her mother made her. 

For almost 30 years, Frida unapologetically painted the deeply personal and political. She bravely turned her life inside out on the canvas. With defiance and a ferocious survival instinct, Frida made transcendental art.

Frida was a fighter.

So...in all of its perspective giving glory, the powerful portrait of Frida on the wall of my mom's studio represented PASSION, RESILIENCE AND HOPE.

No excuses, just paint.
Whatever your passion, against all odds, do it now.

So on the evening of July 6, I channeled my inner Frida and wrote the first three lines of a blog that I'd been putting off for months, maybe years. I started.

Frida died 64 years ago today, July 13, 1954.

Light a candle for Frida tonight.
As you reflect on your day and what you want for tomorrow, ask yourself “what would Frida do?” and see what happens. You might just start something you've been putting off.


  • Erian

    I just stumbled across this and thought you might like to know there’s a new book out called, What Would Frida Do, by Arianna Davis…thank you for this motivation to “just start”.

  • Jenny Heslop

    What would Frida do?? Good question, …. Express herself through her art, her dress, her passion for life itself. She is an inspiration to all those who “don’t have time for art”. Frida painted from her sick bed. She was an intellectual who sought out and entertained the leading intellectuals of her day. Her paintings can be read, as you so graphically described, Michelle. A powerful woman and a powerful intellect. Thank you for this posting. xXxX Mom

  • Jenny Heslop

    What would Frida do? She would express herself through her art, as I did this week in the company of 5 good friends and just paint, paint and tell our stories. We talked with folks on central avenue and when we learned that we didn’t have a Loonie to give to a man who needed it for the salvation army Moonie breakfast we ran upstairs, gathered $12:00 and just as quickly ran to the sally Anne and asked that they use it for anyone who didn’t have the money. Life is art, art is life. XXxX mom

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