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From this island a tight rope begins which creates a diamond-like shape within the center of the tub, and eventually wraps around the neck of a naked female figure, who floats Ophelia -like.

From this female figure, who may represent Kahlo herself, the rope returns into the hand of a faceless man lounging on the edge of the island, who seems to be watching the woman that he is distantly strangling. Also floating in the bathtub are an empty Mexican dress, a seashell full of bullet-holes, a couple that resemble Kahlo's parents from her earlier painting My Grandparents My Parents and I, and two female lovers who later reappear in her painting Two Nudes in a Forest.

What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo

The painting references traditional and ancient iconography, mythology and symbolism, eroticism and botany all mapped out onto a scene depicting the legs of the artist herself as signified by her wounded right foot submerged in bath water. References to Kahlo's earlier works and influences have been noted. These include themes from her painting My Parents, My Grandparents and I , allusions to fifteenth-century painter Hieronymus Bosch 's The Garden of Earthly Delights in her attention to flora and fauna, and a reference to her political position by documenting the clash of the old and the new in the dramatic detail of a skyscraper burning inside a volcano.

Among the various elements of macabre that are visible, a skeleton and a nude bather choked by a rope stand out. What the Water Gave Me was Frida's memoir of her life, depicting life and death and comfort and loss. In the midst of her vision lies the way in which Frida found herself submerged by her life.


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Frida is quoted saying "I drank to drown my pain, but the damned pain learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good behavior. In this portrait Kahlo appears lifeless as she lies in a bathtub submerged in water, her legs barely visible but her feet emerge from the water. Her right foot is bleeding and deformed, reflecting what was happening to her body while she suffered in pain.

What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo

Of the plus operations she endured, most were on her back, right leg and right foot. Hence the wreckage in the painting over her right leg; between the toes of her right foot is a bleeding crack.

What the Water Gave Me: Poems After Frida Kahlo

The spina bifida Kahlo suffered from is a congenital deformity, which results from incomplete closure of neural tube and a partially infused spinal cord. Kahlo returned to the same symbols and figures that can be seen in her other paintings. The Volcano itself is the cornerstone of this painting as it is a strong symbol of her no longer suppressing her feelings about her body, her relationship to her husband, Diego Rivera; the source of most of her passion pain, and her self-worth.

What the Water Gave Me is a symbol of its own; a symbol of self-discovery. With this painting Frida Kahlo demonstrated her ability as a surreal artist who through her method of aggressive visual imagery, rather than verbal language, can convey the trauma of her own existence by putting herself on trial all while simultaneously creating art.

What the Water Gave Me by Pascale Petit

According to the critic Bertram Wolfe , Kahlo's paintings appeared to bring together surrealism and a "deep-rooted Mexican tradition". On the basis of this painting, Kahlo was labeled a surrealist. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Old City Publishing.

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