August 15th, 2008


When Syd and I went to the SFMOMA yesterday, we became members. One of the odd privileges this garnered us was a ride in an elevator for two extra floors. The big exhibit (and the reason we went) is the work of Frida Kahlo. Members got to take the elevator to the fifth floor and walk down one flight to the exhibit, while non-members had to get off at the third floor and walk up. (To go to the fourth floor directly, you have to be unable to walk, membership in which group I’m happy not to have.)

The museum is doing work on the fifth floor, preparing a roof garden space, so there is no art up there right now. But it still has one of the very coolest parts of the whole museum: the bridge over the center atrium. Syd didn’t like it. I know Brent doesn’t like it either. But I love to walk over it, looking down through the mesh of the bridge at the heads of the people just coming in.

The bridge also adds excitement to the art: I have crossed over into some other realm and am now going to see things I have never seen before. Here, in this enchanted castle, anything can happen and probably will.

I learned things. Syd went in knowing more than I did, actually, thanks to the wonders of his education. He knew about Kahlo’s nearly fatal bus accident, the freaky paintings depicting the suffering of her spine, the deep bloody nature of some parts of her imagination.

What I admired was the otherness that Kahlo embraced. Her paintings were of a piece with her life, brightly colored, unexpected. Even fruits as ordinary to me as an orange became alien when she sliced away the peel in a new way. The other women in the photos, their slick hair, their slim and sedate clothes, they were nothing to Kahlo’s sculptural braids, her flowers, her voluminous wrappings. She was who she was, even when that was painful, difficult.

She would have got off at the fourth floor.