Frida Kahlo wore plaster corsets for most of her life because her spine was too weak to support itself. She painted them, naturally, covering them with pasted scraps of fabric and drawings of tigers, monkeys, plumed birds, a blood-red hammer and sickle, and streetcars like the one whose handrail rammed through her body when she was eighteen years old. The corsets remain to this day in her famous blue house—their embedded mirrors reflecting back our gazes, their collages bringing the whole world into stricture. In one, an open circle has been carved into the plaster like a skylight near the heart.
Kahlo, confined in terrible casts most of life, painted them, transformed them, took them over as much as she could, turned them into something beautiful, expressive; she turned them into art.
That’s what’s almost always possible for us to do, too, when we find ourselves bound or constrained or wounded; we can “fight back with beauty“.
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