By: Dana McHutchion, 1st Period
Frida Kahlo de Rivera was born on July 6th of 1910 and raised in Mexico City. Her work has been celebrated in Mexico as symbolism of indigenous and national tradition. Her work is often categorized as folk art, because Amerindian and Mexican cultural tradition are important in her paintings. Her work has also been labeled as "surrealist." She survived a traffic accident when she was a teenager, resulting in many lifelong health problems. Her spinal column was broken in three places in the lumbar region. Her collarbone was broken and her third and fourth ribs. Her right leg had eleven fractures and her right foot was dislocated and crushed. Her left shoulder was out of joint, her pelvis broken in three places. Through the recovery process of her injuries, she was a recluse to the world around her which inspired her works, most of which are self portraits depicting her depression and lonesome. Though she never fully recovered. She married Diego Rivera, a world famous painter, who was 21 years older then her, on August 21st, 1929. Their marriage offered Frida to become involved with a lot of the elite Mexican artists and intellectual circles. But it also offered her a lot of heartbreak. She often claimed him to be the second accident that she had gotten into. They divorced once and remarried a year later; they were separated several times. Diego filed for divorce on November 6th, 1939.
Sylvia Plath was born on October 27th of 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts. She was a daughter of a German immigrant college professor, Otto Plath, and one of his students, Aurelia Schober. The poet's early years were spent near the seashore, but her life changed abruptly when her father died in 1940. Some of her most vivid poems, including the well-known "Daddy," concern her troubled relationship with her father and her feelings of betrayal when he died. Plath was a gifted student who had won numerous awards and had published stories and poetry in national magazines while still in her teens. She attended Smith College on scholarship and continued to excel, winning a Mademoiselle fiction contest one year and achieved a guest editorship of the magazine the following summer. It was during her undergraduate years that Plath began to suffer the symptoms of severe depression that would ultimately lead to her death. In August of 1953, at the age of nineteen, Plath attempted suicide by swallowing sleeping pills. She survived the attempt and was hospitalized, receiving treatment with electro-shock therapy. She was married to a British poet, Ted Hughes, who soon left her in 1962 for another woman which caused her to fall into a deeper depression. In order to cope with her "mental illness" she wrote her only novel, The Bell Jar, in 1963. She also created a collection of poems called "Ariel," (1965) that was released after her death. She committed suicide on February 11, 1963.
In this painting, Frida is in a frontal position, enhancing her over-all prescence in the painting. The thorns she has piercing into her neck resemble a lot of what she is going through at that time; the sudden divorce with her husband that has caused her much pain. Hanging from the thorny necklace is a dead hummingbird. Dead hummingbirds were used as charms to bring luck in love. In contrast with the black cat that is over her left shoulder, which signifys bad luck and death, and appears to be preparing to pounce on top of the hummingbird, or to take her good luck away. Over her right shoulder is her pet monkey, or the "devil" is what they would call it in mexican culture, that was given to her by her ex husband Diego. The butterflies around her hair represent resurrection.
The standard, straight-forward, interpretation of the poem simply says that it is about several suicide attempts. The first one being an accident, the second and third one being purposely done, each attempt occurring within a different decade. After surviving her most recent attempt, she describes her recovery almost as a failure. As if each suicide attempt was presented as an accomplishment. "Dying is an art" that she performs "excepetionally well," believeing that she will reach the type of perfection she wishes to achieve only by dying. In a larger perspective, she kills herself to punish those around her for driving her to do it in the first place, the eager "peanut-crunching crowd." She compares this crowd to the Germans who stood aside while the Jews were being thrown into concentration camps. The crowd views Lady Lazarus/the poet/Plath as an object, and therefore does not recognize her as a human being. Plath reflects this through her multiple references to body parts separated from the whole. From this interpretation, Lady Lazarus's suicide then becomes "an assertion of wholeness, an act of self-definition, and a last desperate act of contempt toward the peanut-crunching crowd."
Connection between the poem and the painting...
The connection between the poem and the painting is based on the many similarities that both Frida Kahlo and Sylvia Plath are going through during the time of their creation. Sylvia Plath wrote Lady Lazarus, among many other poems, after the divorce of her husband Ted Hughes, who left her for another woman. Similar to Frida Kahlo who had found out that her husband was having an affair with her sister, Cristina Kahlo. He did have many affairs before Cristina, but Frida didn't care. Her reasoning was "How could I love someone who wasn't attractive to other women?" But when she found out that the two people she had loved the most betrayed her, she felt like she had been "murdered by life." Both of the artists resemble the same sort of depression within their works. In Fridas self portrait above, she has a dead hummingbird hanging from her neck symbolizing good luck in love, and a black cat getting ready to pounce on top of the bird as if to demolish all of its "luck." Sylvia Plath going through a similar situation with her ex husband, and even with life itself, shows an image similar to the painting. Her suicide attempts are almost like a wish for luck each time, only to be denied and brought back to earth to be "dying" again.