“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”
While strolling through a modern art museum one afternoon, I suddenly stopped and cried, “Why are all the paintings in this room of this crazy lady with the unibrow?” Laughing, my wife took me by the arm and explained that the “crazy lady with the unibrow” was a very famous artist named Frida Kahlo, who had made a name for herself by painting self-portraits. Now, as I teach Fine Arts classes and see Kahlo’s paintings glaring at me from the pages of the textbook, I can’t help but smile.
Born in Mexico City during the year 1907, it seemed that Kahlo was destined for a life of pain. She overcame polio as a child, but was nearly killed in a tragic bus accident in 1925. After this terrible accident, Kahlo lived the rest of her life in physical pain and later discovered that she was unable to carry a child to term. She was married twice to Diego Rivera, but this relationship turned out to bring her nothing but heartbreak.
Kahlo turned to painting as a solace from her constant pain, and is known for blending the technique of the 14th-century Italian masters with the style of the Mexican Muralists. She used her own likeness as the subject of most of her paintings, and now her face has become a widely-recognized symbol of women’s rights and Hispanic culture.
The Beauty and Danger of Self-Examination
Many great artists produce excellent work by reflecting inward and examining their own thoughts and feelings. Scripture even commands us to do this in 2 Corinthians 13:5, which says, “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves.”
The only problem with self-examination is that the view we have of ourselves is often skewed. Take the work of Frida Kahlo, for example. She often exaggerates her own flaws, which sometimes produces monstrous results. We actually need others in order to gain a proper view of ourselves and where we’re headed in life.
This is why the Psalmist prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.” He knew that God understands the inner workings of our hearts far better than we understand it ourselves.
This is also why Scripture has a great deal to say about allowing our Christian brothers and sisters to hold us accountable and give us a more accurate picture of our own daily walk (Proverbs 27:17; Galatians 6:1-2; Matthew 18:15-17; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being married, it’s that my self-perception is often very different from the way others might see me!
As insightful as self-examination can be, we must take care to occasionally invite someone from the “outside” to weigh in on the condition of our hearts and lives. We’ll end up with a far more balanced – not to mention a much less lonely – perspective.
Photo Credit: Self-Portrait with Hummingbird – Frida Kahlo
This post was submitted as part of the A to Z Challenge, where participants agree to write an article that corresponds to each letter of the alphabet, posting every day of the month of April (except Sundays).
Here on The Artistic Christian, my theme for the month is The Classics. Each day I’ll examine a book, film, or work of art that has become a beloved classic and discuss what has made it such a success, and what eternal themes it contains that Christian artists can use as modern illustrations.
For daily reflections from my personal travels around the world, check out my companion blog, A Shepherd’s Reflections, where my theme for April is Reflections From Around the World.