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  1. 1. Reading Guide Frida - The Biography of Frida Kahlo Hayden Herrera Introduction Hailed by readers and critics across the country, this engrossing biography of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo reveals a woman of extreme magnetism and originality, an artist whose sensual vibrancy came straight from her own experiences: her childhood near Mexico City during the Mexican Revolution; a devastating accident at age eighteen that left her crippled and unable to bear children; her tempestuous marriage to muralist Diego Rivera and intermittent love affairs with men as diverse as Isamu Noguchi and Leon Trotsky; her association with the Communist Party; her absorption in Mexican folklore and culture; and her dramatic love of spectacle. About the Author Hayden Herrera is an art historian. She has lectured widely, curated several exhibitions of art, taught Latin American art at New York University, and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the author of numerous articles and reviews for such publications as Art in America, Art Forum, Connoisseur, and the New York Times, among others. Her books include Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo; Mary Frank; and Matisse: A Portrait. She is working on a critical biography of Arshile Gorky. She lives in New York City. Topics to Consider 1. Discuss Frida's obsession with death and the symbolism of death throughout the book. All during her life, Frida found death attractive, alluring. Even when she was very young, when she still found it frightening, even then, death fascinated her. 2. Discuss the relationship between Frida and Diego. Do you think that the volatility of their passion fueled their art? 3. After the unattractive physical description of Diego Rivera what you think attracted both Frida and Cristina to him? Besides being highly sexual, do you feel there was love between these people? Was there intimacy? Or was it merely a physical act? Do you think that Cristina betrays Frida and has an affair with Diego to prove something to her after years of living in her shadow? 4. What do you feel that Frida's obsession with creating self-portraits said about her? 1
  2. 2. 5. From the moment of a bus accident when she was 18, Frida Kahlo endured constant pain, numerous hospitalizations, and many operations. How do you think Frida's physical pain influenced her life and her work? 6. Explore Frida and Diego's commitment to Communism. Do you feel that they embraced Communism as a true calling, or a socially chic issue? 7. Are you drawn to read and learn more about Frida after reading this book? Does reading this book make you want to view her work? Do you feel this work will have more meaning to you after reading this book? Salma Hayek talks about the movie quot;Fridaquot; - interview with Rebecca Murray and Fred Topel ( Producer Nancy Hardin optioned the film rights to Hayden Herrera's extensively researched biography, quot;Frida,quot; when the book was originally released in 1983. No studio was interested in the project at that time, though Hardin shopped the project around exhaustively. It was not until Frida Kahlo's work exploded into popularity during the early 1990s, that interest in a movie based on her life took off. Hardin recalls, quot;There was a period in 1993 when I'd gone around and gotten the usual 'no's,' and then I came back three months later and everyone had a 'Frida' script. From no one to everyone. It was incredible.quot; Salma Hayek, a longtime fan of Kahlo's work, heard that quot;La Bamba'squot; director Luis Valdez was set to direct a Frida film. She went after the title role but was told she was too young for the part. In words that would eventually prove to be prophetic, Hayek replied, quot;Then you are going to have to wait until I'm old enough.quot; Valdez' Frida project never came to fruition, however in the meantime, Hayek had proved her bankability with starring roles in quot;Desperadoquot; and quot;From Dusk Til Dawn.quot; In 1997, producer Hardin signed a deal with Trimark Pictures, and Trimark Pictures signed Hayek to star in and produce their quot;Frida.quot; SALMA HAYEK (Frida Kahlo) You've been passionate about this project for a long time. Eight years. What was it about this woman that really inspired you? There was something about the woman and there was something about the time the woman lived in. About the woman: her courage to be unique. She was never conventional about anything she did. She was always herself and it was not easy. She started exploring her womanhood at a very early age. She got caught with a librarian right before the accident. She was not allowed to go back to the school after the accident because of this. It's not in any books, but Alejandro [Gomez Arias] said, quot;How could you do this to me? How could you do this, period?quot; She said, quot;That's who I am.quot; 2
  3. 3. She was never apologetic about who she was. She did little paintings that nobody liked. She lived with this monster of the art. She was not influenced by what he was doing; she never changed. Even though people would never buy it, she kept true to her own style. I think also, the fact that she took all these different tragedies or difficulties and made the best out of them. [She] not only made the best out of them, but did it in an interesting way. From paint, she did art and poetry. From the infidelities of her husband, she found freedom. Could you relate to her? I would like to learn from her. It is definitely an inspiration and I'd like to take it in. I'm working on it. What did you do to physically get into the role? Did you actually shave your upper lip? I did that but it didn't work. Now, I'm stuck with it. I had a shoe that was one centimeter taller than the other one. It was very difficult to know exactly where she stood on the limping. I talked to many people that knew her and some people would say she never limped, some people would say she always limped, and some people would say she limped sometimes. So what I did is have the shoe bigger than the other one and then try not to limp, try to hide it. But then at times when I thought she was very tired or going through a hard time, I would surrender to whatever that did naturally. I'd stop trying. Do you believe the romance between Frida and Diego Rivera was based on obsession or passion? I think there was always passion. I think there were very profound elements that transformed the passion, not just for sexuality, but they really had passion for each other in many different levels. The passion was not just passion but actually transformed into true love. I think these people learned, through the years, to accept each other exactly as they were and to love each other exactly for what they were. I think that Frida was the only woman that kept challenging Diego for the right reasons - and she always surprised him. I think he truly believed she was a genius and he was the only one who had a vision for it, or the strongest vision for it. When he dies, he leaves a document that says the house that they lived in, the blue house, has to become a museum for Frida Kahlo. Had it not been for his vision, we probably would have never discovered Frida - if she hadn't had that museum. He knew that at the time she was not appreciated, but he knew there was going to come a generation that was going to totally get her. I think there are very profound symbols of love in this story. What I like about this story, aside from the fact that it's completely different than any love story I've ever seen, is that it's not a story about falling in love. It's a story about staying in love. People don't want to make those stories because they're not as romantic. They're very hard to tell. Did this character stay with you or could you get out of it easily? I can break it very easily because she's been in my life since I was 14 and she's still in my life today. It stays in my heart. So, I don't feel a complete detachment. I can break away from trying to be her, or feeling that I am her or trying to play her, because still she's around. How did you handle some of the bisexual scenes? It's not a big deal. You have to be somebody. This is what that person was into. The same 3
  4. 4. way when you have to get into somebody that you're not attracted to. They have bad breath and you have to pretend you're in love. What would Frida think of this movie? I don't know. I have no idea. I have no idea, but wherever she is she knows I tried really hard to make her happy with it. If you enjoyed this book… Caravaggio, A Life – Helen Langdon Diego Rivera - Pete Hamill Georgia O'Keefe, A Life - Roxana Robinson Laurie Anderson - Roselee Goldberg Lust For Life - Irving Stone Piet Mondrian - Joop M Joosten 4