A few weeks ago, I went to see this exhibition at the V&A and found it very moving. There is something poignant about a woman's make up, especially after death. In Frida Kahlo's case, I was struck by the femininity of the possessions on show here: how intimate it felt, almost voyeuristic, to be viewing her mascara, her scent, her nail varnish, and even more so, her corsets, her prosthetic leg, the parts of her kept hidden under the gorgeous extravagance of her dresses. The exhibition is sold out, in spite of an extension, and was packed when I was there. It inspired the following thoughts:
Inside the glass cases, a trapped scent: Shalimar, Schiaparelli, Chanel, the perfumes of a bourgeois world, one half of your divided body. The other wears a Tehuanatapec dress, the bolans covering your crafted leg. A softening, a defiance.
She looks in the mirror, applies Everything is Rosy to her full lips, presses them together, applies a little more. Then ebony eye pencil, to enhance the monobrow. Her eyes share a smile with her reflection. So much movement in the vivid lips, the flower in her hair, the decorated, layered dress. Underneath, the prison of her corset, the necessary enclosure, keeping her rigid. Her wasted leg strapped in the heavy boot, all lightness contained. She is held, kept upright, when all she wants to do is dance.