Monthly Archives: June 2011

Live More Art: Frida Kahlo

The text: Frida, 2002 (Director: Julie Taymor)
The media: film
The thought: We all need art more than we understand; it is stifled under modern attitudes. How can we live more art?
The lesson: Frida Kahlo’s life through art, our lives through art

The Two Fridas
The Two Fridas — source

The most delightful part about watching Frida, besides the colors and the beautiful celebration of (bi)sexuality, was, to me, the idea of art as a crazy, variegated reflection of our real lives. We have every reason to want to escape the mundane aspects of everyday life, especially with how consumerist and shallow middle-class America has become. In other cases or other places, the need for art may arise from extreme poverty or corruption or simple apathy — the things that make our lives difficult or boring or unpleasant. Luckily for us, our human predecessors gave us exactly the creative tool to help ourselves mitigate these very human problems.

Escape from the mundane — or perhaps just visualization of the mundane as something less mundane — is one thing, and an important one at that. According to the portrayal of her life in the movie, Frida Kahlo painted to ease the physical and emotional pain brought on by medical trauma and her love story with husband Diego Rivera. Her mundane was, in fact, much more tumultuous than so many of ours. But it was her life, and she used art to escape its more unbearable parts.

My Dress Hangs There

My Dress Hangs There — source

We may be confined to one body for our entire lives, but through creativity and imagining, we can soar beyond our physical limitations and live in our imagination the way we cannot in our reality. The beauty of Kahlo’s creative labor was that she infused it with extraordinary color, imagination and feeling, allowing her world to be seen so clearly by the rest of us. Not all art needs to be this way. Kahlo had connections — namely, a world-famous painter as a lover — that spread her influence across continents and, now, time, allowing her to be hailed as a great artist. But all art does not need to be famous art.

Everyone can be an artist, but as many of us unfortunately know, our creative potential is often stifled early on by competitive spirit, critical friends or teachers, lack of perseverance or a perceived lack of resources and drive. Is this an American tendency? I feel intuitively that other cultures might prioritize creative expression more effectively than we do. We do an all right job, but unfortunately our current society values numbers, grades, and measurable success, because they are, well, measurable. Supporting art costs money, because people feel it is not a basic necessity. Therein lies the age-old problem of our modernity.

How can we bring more art into our lives, if we have been so brainwashed by this monster we call society/economy/efficiency?

At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can. — Frida Kahlo

An answer for myself: be insistent about making art every day. I may be timid about drawing or painting or dancing my feelings, which are often so overwhelming or complex (aren’t everyone’s?) that I don’t know where to begin. But words and stories and poetry I have crafted for years. Music is a beautiful thing that I want to craft more. Art doesn’t even have to be of traditional media; being creative and thinking innovatively are both artistic pursuits. Consider this post the first step.

Extra links
I absolutely love browsing through the list of Kahlo’s paintings at Frida Kahlo Fans, (one among many other great sites I’m sure!).


Improv: Storytelling

Here is a long-forgotten post that I never published, about the improv class I took in June 2011. It’s in note format, so not everything is easily understandable, but I’d like to finally publish it for my own sake.

Games we played

  • Ball
  • A&B Super-Spy
  • Tell a story one word at a time, starting with “Once upon a time…” to get going easily.
    • Partners
    • Groups of 4
      • Told in rounds of 1 word per person, then 2, 3, 4, 3, 2 and finally 1 per person again. Go around exactly 7 times.
    • Whole class
      • One word at a time, then two words at a time. If someone is stuck, they can throw their hands up and said “again!” And the group will answer “again!” in unison so that the person can start over.
      • Once upon a time… > And every day… > Until one day… > Because that happened (x3)… > Until finally… > And ever since then… > The moral of the story is…
  • Word association line
  • String of Pearls
  • Category Die

Lessons learned

  • Remember to always go with the first thing that pops into your head. Don’t second guess – embrace the obvious. You don’t have to be funny or clever. If it’s obscene or awkward, we’ll either deal with it or just let it go.
  • “Expert adjustment” – sound like an expert with whatever you’re saying and it will work out fine. Even if you’re not sure!
  • Make your partner look good – your job is not only to throw the ball when it comes to you, but also to help them catch the ball.
  • The most important thing is the last thing your partner said. Whatever ideas you may have had brewing can go out the window, so always listen to your partner and act like their contribution is the most brilliant thing in the world!

Feelings I had
Negative

  • I don’t like when certain classmates are always volunteering or going first.
  • People are saying awkward things.
  • I am distracted by thinking about the cute boy in the class.
  • I feel uncomfortable doing this partner thing and I am rambling.
  • I don’t want to be the one who makes everyone cringe.
  • People are overanalyzing or being too serious or trying too hard.
  • There are some people in this class who intimidate me or put me off so much that I don’t want to interact with them. What’s the point in getting to know them when the class will be over in three weeks?
  • I am failing at this, not being sure of myself and putting things into practice, and I am thinking negatively so much.

Positive

  • Our teacher is wonderful – genuine, funny, considerate, patient, non-judgmental, intelligent, talented! She gives personal feedback that makes me feel ok about failing at parts of this, and about doing well!
  • I love the story we came up with about the ham-eating zebra who rescued pigs from slaughter and then helped save them from an intergalactic emperor.
  • I am excited to have new ideas for teaching ESL lessons through these games.
  • I’m so glad I talked with C about linguistics, being a JET, teaching ESL and publishing!! BFF match!
  • It is great to have new things to think and write about after every class.
  • I sense that the cute boy is paying me attention, but I don’t need anything more than that.
  • It feels so good to laugh uproariously at the things people come up with.
  • Stories evolve in such interesting ways. Storytelling is not that hard, but there is a lot to it.
  • Word games are incredibly fun, and I love focusing on both bite-sized linguistic morsels and longer word art like stories.