Me, Frida

h1 January 11th, 2011 by jules

“For once, Frida felt larger than life. Me, Frida! She felt like she could fly.”

I’m sorry, I know I engage in hyperbole for fun quite a bit here at 7-Imp, but I truly find those colors breathtaking.

On the 7-Imp to-do list in my head for this week, though I admit I usually figure these things out at the last minute, was a post in which I had planned to feature some illustrations from Amy Novesky’s Me, Frida (Abrams, October 2010), illustrated by David Díaz. I’ve had the book for a while, and it’s a well-crafted story and beautifully illustrated. Then, yesterday it was up and named a Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book. So, I don’t know about you, but I think today’s the perfect time to feature it. I’m still feeling celebratory over yesterday’s winners!

Focused on Frida’s move in 1930 from Mexico to San Francisco with her husband, artist Diego Rivera, the book centers on Frida’s sense of loss and isolation upon arriving in America. Having flown there, as if literally both birds, Diego thrives upon their arrival, and “Frida felt lost. She was in a foreign city. She didn’t speak much English. And she didn’t have many friends.” (Speaking of birds, look for the small pink one in nearly every spread.)

“…Outside, the world was cool and gray. Frida felt very far away from home. Diego was working on a mural for the city. While he sketched, Frida was restless. She strummed a guitar. She sang Mexican folk songs called corridos. ‘Quiet, querida,’ cooed Diego. He loved his beloved’s singing, but there was work to be done.”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

“…Mr. and Mrs. Diego Rivera attended parties,” Novesky writes. “The city’s elite celebrated Diego. Frida stood quietly at his side. No one even looked at her.”

However, Novesky—with compelling pacing—reveals Frida’s increasing levels of self-confidence as an artist in her own right. She begins to explore the city on her own, feeling braver and more comfortable in her new surroundings:

“Soon Frida felt bolder and rode on a streetcar. She took a ferry across the Golden Gate and walked in the green headlands high above the ocean. From there, she could see the entire glittering city and all it held, including Diego. It was small enough to fit on the wing of a bird. For once, Frida felt larger than life. Me, Frida!
She felt like she could fly.”

(Click to enlarge spread.)

She then begins to paint, only to be called “passable” by the local press. One evening at a social gathering with Diego, she grows “tired of being quiet” and begins to sing, drawing the attention and admiration of not only Diego, but also everyone in the room. That evening, she “painted something great: a colorful wedding portrait of herself and Diego. She painted Diego big, and she painted herself small, just as the world saw them.” (And that would be the painting I’ll include at the bottom of this post.)

“Frida’s painting, Frieda and Diego Rivera, was featured in the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists. It was her first show. Adorned in her best dress and necklaces of ancient jade, her jet-black hair braided, Frida walked proudly through the crowd. When people saw her,
they stopped and stared at her in wonder.”

(Click to enlarge spread.)

Díaz rendered the paintings in these illustrations in acrylic, charcoal, and varnish on primed linen. “Vibrant spreads,” wrote Publishers Weekly, “feature backdrops of warm colors dripping into cooler ones (and vice versa), just as the brightly dressed, bejeweled Kahlo melded with the damp, gray city. Diaz’s…overlapping complementary colors add a gorgeous yet slightly unsettling visual element, his intense hues and folk/naïve style recalling Kahlo’s work.”

I second that “gorgeous.”

Congratulations to both Novesky and Díaz on the Honor award.

* * * * * * *

ME, FRIDA. Copyright © 2010 Amy Novesky. Illustrations opyright © 2010 David Díaz. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Abrams Books, New York, New York.

Frieda and Diego Rivera, 1931, Frida Kahlo.

16 comments to “Me, Frida

  1. […] Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast » Blog Archive » Me, Frida – view page – cached “For once, Frida felt larger than life. Me, Frida! She felt like she could […]

  2. Such a beautiful story, and the illustrations are so luminous! I love the layers of translucent background drips with the bolder, more opaque colors and graphic charcoal lines on top. Perfect for Frida! (And I didn’t know she sang…)

  3. Jessica, I love those drips! I figured it had a fancy art name I didn’t know, and I didn’t mention them, but I love that technique. It’s a really lovely book.

  4. I love the drips of color and that scarf! Woosie. Me, Frida deserved the honor! 🙂 e

  5. You could almost drown in those colors. So rich and deep! Looking forward to reading this and letting it sweep me away.

  6. wonderful! thank you for sharing our book! amy

  7. Looks like another glorious Frida book! We’re big fans of Ana Juan, so her book has been a hit around here.

  8. I’ve always been a big admirer of Kahlo’s work. Her self-portraits are extraordinary. Long ago I read an adult bio of her and found her fascinating. I remember one bit still. Diego built them each a house connected by a passageway. What a perfect way for two artists to live. (Too bad he cheated on her.) I’ll definitely be on the lookout for this bio.

  9. As a huge admirer of David Diaz’s art, I think the combination of his aesthetic and Frida’s is such a perfect match. I am so glad it was not only admired but given an award.


  10. thank you for the amazing story and illustrations — I so Frida’s passion for painting — Her torment of pain drove her to dig deep inside and paint what was real for her — not too many people are willing and able to do that as painters.

    Thank you universe for Frida — and thank you for this blog.

    Diane Leonard

  11. Absolutely stunning. This is one for the shelf, for sure!


  12. Those colors really are breathtaking. The artwork is just beautiful. I like how in that last spread, the “real” Frida is standing in front of the little Frida in the painting, making her the much larger one after all–very clever! Thanks for sharing this book.

  13. The tapestry is so rich … the vertical “streaks” of color add such depth that I felt like these were moving images (literally, not just figuratively). Thanks Jules!

  14. Thanks for visiting, you all. Lovely book. I’m so happy to share it.

  15. […] Me, Frida from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Lovely and beautiful book, I must get this for my library. […]

  16. Wow – I have always admired David Diaz as an illustrator but (as you and others have noted) these are absolutely stunning. I think what strikes me the most is the way that the illustrations don’t have particularly complex shape or line, which highlights even more how rich and multilayered the colors are painted. Based on the illustrations you’ve showed us here, it seems like the more Friday finds herself, the more depth and complexity Diaz adds to the illustrations. I may have to go out and get a copy of this for myself today!

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