Thursday, August 7, 2014

Surrealism (pt. 6)

This painting, Self-Portrait as a Wounded Deer, beautifully bridges Expressionism and Surrealism.  We are looking at a made-up scene, one not from nature or reality.  This is Frida Kahlo's own vision, and in that vision she has poured her emotional feelings and expression of self-identity.  Within a claustrophobic forest of barren, broken, and sinister-looking trees, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, we see a stag leaping over a fallen branch.  The stag bears the face of Frida Kahlo, looking back out at the viewer with solemn stoicism.  The artist herself, having suffered from severe leg injuries as a result of her experience with polio and the horrible bus accident to follow, displays this as an ironic image, since her own legs could not function as well as an ordinary human being's, let alone those of a deer.  But here she is in the painting as a stag with the agility and strength to leap across a wide path through a forest.  But this deer has been pierced by numerous arrows, from which wounds pour streams of blood.  As a work of Expressionism, this painting captures like few others the artist's feelings of pain—physical pain.  This is the product of her nearly thirty-five operations and frequent and painful stays in hospitals which lasted her entire life.  Eventually, shortly before her death, the artist's right leg had to be amputated on account of gangrene, causing Kahlo immense emotional turmoil and severe depression.  In the back of this painting, over an oceanic horizon, Kahlo alludes to her own misgivings about her steadily deteriorating conditions through the symbolism of the thunder and stormy cloud which appear faint off in the distance but seem to pierce the landscape of the deer's world no less violently than the arrows piercing her own body in the foreground.  This is a fantasy painting, but very real suffering is being depicted here.  We can see it, and perhaps the surrealism of the scene helps to bring us closer to the reality of what Frida Kahlo is expressing.

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