Fiction Friday: Portrait of Miscarriage, Frida Kahlo

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By Leslie Lindsay

As part of my research for my novel-in-progress I have come across some grisly accounts of miscarriage. Mind you, I’ve never been through this traumatic event myself and wouldn’t wish it on anyone. My character, Mel has had a series of them. As part of her healing process, a grief group counselor has asked her to write about the experience. Mel is also a former journalist and this piece may play into some of her desire to write.

“In 1932, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo painted a gruesome self-portrait. She lies naked on a bed labeled, “Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit.” This is where her miscarriage took place. A pool of blood stains the white sheets of the neatly made bed. A large tear falls from her left eye. A perfectly formed baby boy floats above the artist like a balloon, tethered to a red rope she holds in her hand. Another red rope in her hand is a snail, depicting that this miscarriage—one of at least two she’s suffered—occurred at a horrifically slow pace. Four more red umbilical cords run like red rivers from Frida’s hands: a medical model of a female torso symbolizes her incompetence, a darkened piece of metal indicates the mechanical nature of the way the episode was handled.  A flower lies languidly—perhaps a reminder of life’s delicate bloom, the shape of a vagina, a symbol of beauty. And then a bony pelvis, spread wide holding nothing.

Nothing at all.

This piece of artwork, also known as The Flying Bed, is the world’s most famous artistic depiction of miscarriage. The painting will never hang in any home, it’s too gruesome. Instead, it’s permanent place of honor is in the gallery collection of Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City, Mexico. Interestingly, the piece has reproductions available through various on-line art shops. Posters, framed and unframed. If I order today, I can select my frame style and save 10%. There’s a coupon code. And I wonder, who would want something so disturbing?

My only thought is it’s used for art history classes in high schools or colleges. Or to be held by those picketers who dissuade woman from going into the abortion clinic. Or perhaps medical schools use them to help students develop bedside manners.

Because no woman who has endured a miscarriage needs a pictorial reminder: they see it every day. The grief and pain haunts our daily lives, the images of blood spilled in panties and toilets when it’s supposed to be nourishing a new life is burned on the backs our eyelids, those little lost babies found only in our hearts.”

[image source: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/frida-kahlo/henry-ford-hospital-the-flying-bed-1932. Retrieved 2.21.14]Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) - Frida Kahlo

 

 

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