The Japanese Traditions of Sashiko & Boro: The Centuries-Old Craft That Mends Clothes in a Sustainable, Artistic Way

The state of our troubled planet dictates that disposables are out.

Reusables are in.

And anyone who’s taught themselves how to mend and maintain their stuff has earned the right to flaunt it!

A quick scroll through Instagram reveals loads of visible mending projects that highlight rather than disguise the area of repair, drawing the eye to contrasting threads reinforcing a threadbare knee, frayed cuff, ragged rip, or moth hole.




While some practitioners take a freeform approach, the most pleasing stitches tend to be in the sashiko tradition.

Sashiko—frequently translated as “little stabs”—was born in Edo period Japan (1603-1868), when rural women attempted to prolong the life of their families’ tattered garments and bedding, giving rise to a humble form of white-on-indigo patchwork known as boro.

While sashiko can at times be seen serving a purely decorative function, such as on a very well preserved Meiji period jacket in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, its primary use was always one born of necessity.

As Austin Bryant notes on Heddels, a news and education website dedicated to sustainable goods:

Over generations of families, these textiles would acquire more and more patches, almost to the point of the common observer being unable to recognize where the original fabric began. As they recovered after the end of World War II, to some the boro textiles reminded the Japanese of their impoverished rural past.

Keiko & Atsushi Futatsuya are a mother-and-son artisan team whose posts on sashiko and boro go beyond straightforward how-tos to delve into cultural history.

According to them, the goal of sashiko should not be aesthetically pleasing rows of uniform stitches, but rather “enjoying the dialogue” with the fabric.

As Atsushi explains in an Instagram post, viewers seeing their work with a Western perspective may respond differently than those who have grown up with the elements in play:

This is a photo of a “Boro-to-be Jacket” in the process. This is the back (hiding) side of the jacket and many non-Japanese would say this should be the front and should show to the public. The Japanese would understand why it is a backside naturally, but I would need to “explain” to the non-Japanese who do not share the same value (why we) purposefully make this side as “hiding” side. That’s why, I keep sharing in words. One picture may be worth a thousand words, but the thousand words may be completely different based on their (free) interpretation. In sharing the culture, some “actual words” would be also very important.

To try your hand at sashiko, you will need a long needle, such as a cotton darning needle, white embroidery thread, and—for boro—an aging textile in need of some attention.

Should you find yourself sliding into a full blown obsession, you may want to order sashiko needles and thread, and a palm thimble to help you push through several weights of fabric simultaneously.

You’ll find many patterns, tips, and tutorials on the Futatsuya family’s Sashi.co YouTube channel.

via Vox

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

When Andy Warhol & Edie Sedgwick, the First Couple of Pop Art, Made an Odd Appearance on the Merv Griffin Show (1965)

Andy Warhol adored television and, in a way, considered it his most formative influence. While his paintings, silkscreens, and films, and the Velvet Underground, might be all the legacy he might need, Warhol, more than anything, longed to be a TV personality. He made his first concerted effort in 1979, launching a New York public access interview show. In one of the show’s 42 episodes, Warhol sits in almost total silence while his friend Richard Berlin interviews Frank Zappa.

But Warhol hated Zappa, and hated him even more after the interview. When he talked to and about subjects he liked, he could be particularly chatty, in his deadpan way: see, for example, his interview with Alfred Hitchcock, whom he greatly admired, or early eighties Saturday Night Live spots for NBC and later eighties MTV variety show. In Warhol’s much earlier 1965 appearance on the Merv Griffin show, above, long before he made TV presenter a profession, he appears with the stunningly charismatic Edie Sedgwick, his beloved muse and original superstar, and he chooses to say almost nothing at all.




Sedgwick does the talking, informing the host that Andy, unused to making “really public appearances,” would only whisper his answers in her ear, and she would whisper them to Griffin. It’s an act, of course, but the performance of a persona that hid an even more shy, retiring character. In a textbook irony, the artist who ushered in the age of self-promoting influencers and invented the superstar could be about as engaging as a houseplant. Sedgwick, on the contrary, is characteristically enthralling.

Known as “girl of the year” in 1965, the California socialite had defected from her privileged surroundings to live in Warhol’s world. The two “fell in love platonically but intensely,” Karen Lynch writes at Blast magazine, “and their mutually beneficial relationship became the talk of the town.” Griffin introduces them as “the two leading exponents of the new scene. No party in New York is considered a success unless they are there.” This was no hyperbole, though the audience doesn’t know who they are… yet.

Sedgwick explains how they met at the Factory, where she arrived the previous year with her trust fund to introduce herself and join the scene. She more or less takes over the interview, selling Warhol’s superstar myth with eloquence and wit, and she seems so much more like today’s art stars than Warhol (who eventually gives a few one-word answers), and has arguably had as much or more influence on Gen Y and Z creators. Sedgwick was “more than aspirational stereotypes allow,” writes Lynch, and more than the fact of her untimely death at 28.

One online artistic statement of this fact, Edie’s Farm, a site for “counterfactual current events,” supposes that Sedgwick had survived her drug addiction and anorexia and continued making art (and giving makeup tutorials) into the 21st century, imagining her as her young self, not the woman in her 70s she would be. “Maybe no one’s ever had a year quite as amazing as my 1965,” the fictional Sedgwick says. “I loved Andy and his Factory. But it wasn’t a sustainable life for me”—a tragic irony impossible to ignore in watching her otherwise impossibly charming performance above.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe

What shall we read before bed?

Georgia O’Keeffe was a fan of cookbooks, telling her young assistant Margaret Wood that they were “enjoyable nighttime company, providing brief and pleasant reading.”

Among the culinary volumes in her Abiquiu, New Mexico ranch home were The Fanny Farmer Boston Cooking School CookbookThe Joy of CookingLet’s Eat Right to Keep Fit and Cook Right, Live Longer.

Also Pickups and Cheerups from the Waring Blender, a 21-page pamphlet featuring blended cocktails, that now rests in Yale University’s Beinecke Library, along with the rest of the contents of O’Keeffe’s recipe box, acquired the night before it was due to be auctioned at Sotheby’s. (Some of the images on this page come courtesy of Sotheby’s.)




In addition to recipes—inscribed by the artist’s own hand in ink from a fountain pen, typed by assistants, clipped from magazines and newspapers, or in promotional booklets such as the one published by the Waring Products Company—the box housed manuals for O’Keeffe’s kitchen appliances.

The booklet that came with her pressure cooker includes a spattered page devoted to cooking fresh veggies, a testament to her abiding interest in eating healthfully.

O’Keeffe had a high regard for salads, garden fresh herbs, and simple, locally sourced food.

Today’s buddha bowl craze is, however, “the opposite of what she would enjoy” according to Wood, author of the books Remembering Miss O’Keeffe: Stories from Abiquiu and A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe.

Wood, who was some 66 years younger than her employer, recently visited The Sporkful podcast to recall her first days on the job :

…she said, “Do you like to cook?” 

And I said, “Yes, I certainly do.” 

So she said, “Well, let’s give it a try.” 

And after two days of my hippie health food, she said, “My dear, let me show you how I like my food.” My first way of trying to cook for us was a lot of brown rice and chopped vegetables with chicken added. And that was not what she liked. 

An example of what she did like: Roasted lemon chicken with fried potatoes, a green salad featuring lettuce and herbs from her garden, and steamed broccoli.

Also yogurt made with the milk of local goats, whole wheat flour ground on the premises, watercress plucked from local streams, and home canning.

Most of these labor-intensive tasks fell to her staff, but she maintained a keen interest in the proceedings.

Not for nothing did the friend who referred Wood for the job warn her it would “require a lot of patience because Miss O’Keeffe was extremely particular.”

The jottings from the recipe box don’t really convey this exacting nature.

Those accustomed to the extremely specific instructions accompanying even the simplest recipes to be found on the Internet may be shocked by O’Keeffe’s brevity.

 

Perhaps we should assume that she stationed herself close by the first time any new hire prepared a recipe from one of her cards, knowing she would have to verbally correct and redirect.

(O’Keeffe insisted that Wood stir according to her method—don’t scrape the sides, dig down and lift up.)

The box also contained recipes that were likely rarities on O’Keeffe’s table, given her dietary preferences, though they are certainly evocative of the period: tomato aspic, Maryland fried chickenFloating Islands, and a cocktail she may have first sipped in a Santa Fe hotel bar.

The Beinecke plans to digitize its newly acquired collection. This gives us hope that one day, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum may follow suit with the red recipe binder Wood mentions in A Painter’s Kitchen:

This was affectionately referred to as “Mary’s Book,” named after a previous staff member who had compiled it. That notebook was continually consulted, and revised to include new recipes or to improve on older ones…. As she had collected a number of healthy and flavorful recipes, she would occasionally laugh and comment, “We should write a cookbook.”

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Edward Hopper’s Creative Process: The Drawing & Careful Preparation Behind Nighthawks & Other Iconic Paintings

Edward Hopper painted, but more importantly, he drew. His body of work includes about 140 canvases, which doesn’t make him especially prolific given his long life and career — but then, one of those canvases is Nighthawks. Here on Open Culture, we’ve previously featured Hopper’s “storyboards” for that time- and culture-transcending painting of a late-night New York diner. But those count as only a few of the voluminous preparatory drawings without which neither Nighthawks nor his other major works like AutomatChop Suey, or Morning Sun Sea would have seen the light of day — or rather, the emotional dusk that infuses all his images, no matter their setting.

“It’s a long process of gestation in the mind and arising emotion,” says Hopper himself in the 1961 interview clip above.  “I make various small sketches, sketches of the thing that I wish to do, also sketches of details in the picture.” This process entailed no little pavement-pounding: “Again and again, he would pick up his sketchbook and head for a cluster of New York City movie theaters,” writes the Los Angeles Times‘ Barbara Isenberg, covering Hopper Drawing, a 2013 exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. “Sometimes it was the Republic or the Palace, other times the Strand or the Globe, places where he could study the lobby, the auditorium, the curtained area off to the side. Back at home, he’d pose his wife, Josephine, as an usherette and draw her portrait.” After 54 such drawings, the result was Hopper’s “monumental painting New York Movie.”

The following year, the Dallas Museum of Art opened Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process a show covered at the blog of Signet Art. “Hopper worked from real life for the first step of his process, a step he called ‘from the fact,’ often drawing and sketching on site before returning to his studio to complete a piece,” says the blog. “He was meticulous in his preparation, drawing and creating extensive studies for a new work before approaching the canvas.” Only then did he bring his imagination into it, though he still “referred to his drawings as a reminder of how light and shadow played off an architectural space and the figures within it.” Is this how he managed to render so eloquently themes of loneliness, isolation, modern man and his environment? “Those are the words of critics,” the plainspoken Hopper said. “It may be true, and it may not be true.”

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

A Creepy 19th Century Re-Creation of the Famous Ancient Roman Statue, Laocoön and His Sons

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. We’ve all heard that proverb, but few of us could name its source: the Trojan priest Laocoön, a historical character in the Aeneid. “Do not trust the Horse, Trojans,” Virgil has him say. “Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts.” He was right to do so, as we all know, though his death came not at the hands of the Greek army let into Troy by the soldiers hidden inside the Horse, but those of the gods. As Virgil has it, an enraged Laocoön threw a spear at the Horse when his compatriots disregarded words of caution, and in response the goddess Minerva sent forth a couple of sea serpents to do him in.

The Aeneid, of course, offers only one account of Laocoön’s fate. Sophocles, for instance, had him spared and only his sons killed, and his ostensible crime — being a priest yet marrying — had nothing to do with the Trojan Horse. But whatever drew the serpents Laocoön’s way, the moment they set upon him and his sons was immortalized by Rhodian sculptors Agesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus in Laocoön and His Sons, among the most famous ancient sculptures in existence since its excavation in 1506. (The sculpture was originally created somewhere between 200 BC and 70 AD.) Various tributes have been paid to it over the centuries, most notably by an Austrian anatomist named Josef Hyrtl, whose built his highly Halloween-suitable recreation out of skeletons — both human and snake.




“According to Christopher Polt, an assistant professor in the classical studies department at Boston College who tweeted a side-by-side comparison of the two versions, Hyrtl created his take on the sculpture at the University of Vienna around 1850,” writes Hyperallergic’s Valentina Di Liscia. In response, a historian named Gregory Stringer tweeted that Hyrtl must have been able to intuit the “proper pose” of Laocoön’s right arm, since in the mid-19th century the sculpture’s original arm was still missing, yet to be rediscovered and reattached, and since 1510 had been replaced in copies with an incorrectly outstretched substitute. Laocoön and His Sons now resides at the Vatican (learn more about it in the Smarthistory video below), but Hyrtl’s skeletal Laocoön and His Sons was destroyed in the 1945 Allied bombing of Vienna.

In 2018, a similar project was attempted again for an exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The new all-skeleton version of Laocoön and His Sons was created, as the Houston Press‘ Jef Rouner reports, by taxidermist Lawyer Douglas, taxidermy collector Tyler Zottarelle, and artist Joshua Hammond. “It looks a lot like interpretative dance,” Rouner quotes Douglas as saying of Hyrtl’s work. “It’s a beautiful piece, but I was concerned it wasn’t able to capture the original struggle of animal versus human.” Though Agesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus’ original is known as a “prototypical icon of human agony,” it turns out that “getting perpetually grinning skulls to seem in agony is harder than you might think.” But if any time of the year is right for grinning skulls to express the human experience, surely this is it.

via Hyperallergic

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

How Storyboarding Works: A Brief Introduction to How Ridley Scott, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson & Other Directors Storyboard Their Films

When you’re making a film with complex shots or sequences of shots, it doesn’t hurt to have storyboards. Though professional storyboard artists do exist, they don’t come cheap, and in any case they constitute one more player in the game of telephone between those who’ve envisioned the final cinematic product and the collaborators essential to realizing it. It thus greatly behooves aspiring directors to develop their drawing skills, though you hardly need to be a full-fledged draftsman like Ridley Scott or even a proficient comic artist like Bong Joon-ho for your work to benefit from storyboarding.

You do, however, need to understand the language of storyboarding, essentially a means of translating the rich language of cinema into figures (stick figures if need be), rectangles, and arrows — lots of arrows. Drawing on examples from Star Wars and Jurassic Park to Taxi Driver and The Big Lebowski, the RocketJump Film School video above explains how storyboards work in less than ten minutes.




As storyboard artist Kevin Senzaki explains how these drawings visualize a film in advance of and as a guide for filmmaking process, we see a variety of storyboards ranging from crude sketches to nearly comic book-level detail, all compared to corresponding clips from the finished production.

These examples come from the work of such directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Wes Anderson, and Christopher Nolan — all of whose films, you’ll notice, have no slight visual ambitions. When a shot or sequence requires serious visual effects work, or even when a camera has to make just the right move to advance the action, storyboards are practically essential. Not that every successful director uses them: no less an auteur than Werner Herzog has called storyboards “the instruments of the cowards,” those who can’t handle the spontaneity of either filmmaking or life itself. Rather, he tells aspiring directors to “read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read… read, read… read.” But then so did Akira Kurosawa, who didn’t just draw his movies in advance — he painted them.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Frida Kahlo’s Venomous Love Letter to Diego Rivera: “I’m Amputating You. Be Happy and Never Seek Me Again”

Painter Diego Rivera set the bar awfully high for other lovers when he—allegedly—ate a handful of his ex-wife Frida Kahlo’s cremains, fresh from the oven.

Perhaps he was hedging his bets. The Mexican government opted not to honor his express wish that their ashes should be co-mingled upon his death. Kahlo’s remains were placed in Mexico City’s Rotunda of Illustrious Men, and have since been transferred to their home, now the Museo Frida Kahlo.

Rivera lies in the Panteón Civil de Dolores.

Other creative expressions of the grief that dogged him til his own death, three years later:

His final painting, The Watermelons, a very Mexican subject that’s also a tribute to Kahlo’s last work, Viva La Vida

And a locked bathroom in which he decreed 6,000 photographs, 300 of Kahlo’s garments and personal items, and 12,000 documents were to be housed until 15 years after his death.

Among the many revelations when this chamber was belatedly unsealed in 2004, her clothing caused the biggest stir, particularly the ways in which the colorful garments were adapted to and informed by her physical disabilities.

Her prosthetic leg, shod in an eye-catching red boot was given a place of honor in an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum.,

These treasures might have come to light earlier save for a judgment call on the part of Dolores Olmedo, Rivera’s patron, former model, and friend. During renovations to turn the couple’s home into a museum, she had a peek and decided the lipstick-imprinted love letters from some famous men Frida had bedded could damage Rivera’s reputation.

In what way, it’s difficult to parse.

The couple’s history of extramarital relations (including Rivera’s dalliance with Kahlo’s sister, Christina) weren’t exactly secret, and both of the players had left the building.

One thing that’s taken for granted is Kahlo’s passion for Rivera, whom she met as girl of 15. Tempting as it might be to view the relationship with 2020 goggles, it would be a disservice to Kahlo’s sense of her own narrative. Self-examination was central to her work. She was characteristically avid in letters and diary entries, detailing her physical attraction to every aspect of Rivera’s body, including his giant belly “drawn tight and smooth as a sphere.” Ditto her obsession with his many conquests.

Not surprisingly, she was capable of penning a pretty spicy love letter herself, and the majority were aimed at her husband:

Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. you are the mirror of the night. the violent flash of lightning. The dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. my fingers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.

Her most notorious love letter does not appear to be one at first.

Bedridden, and facing the amputation of a gangrenous right leg that had already sacrificed some toes 20 years earlier, she directed the full force of her emotions at Rivera.

The lover she’d tenderly pegged as “a boy frog standing on his hind legs” now appeared to her an “ugly son of a bitch,” maddeningly possessed of the power to seduce women (as he had seduced her).

You have to read all the way to the twist:

Mexico,
1953

My dear Mr. Diego,

I’m writing this letter from a hospital room before I am admitted into the operating theatre. They want me to hurry, but I am determined to finish writing first, as I don’t want to leave anything unfinished. Especially now that I know what they are up to. They want to hurt my pride by cutting a leg off. When they told me it would be necessary to amputate, the news didn’t affect me the way everybody expected. No, I was already a maimed woman when I lost you, again, for the umpteenth time maybe, and still I survived.

I am not afraid of pain and you know it. It is almost inherent to my being, although I confess that I suffered, and a great deal, when you cheated on me, every time you did it, not just with my sister but with so many other women. How did they let themselves be fooled by you? You believe I was furious about Cristina, but today I confess that it wasn’t because of her. It was because of me and you. First of all because of me, since I’ve never been able to understand what you looked and look for, what they give you that I couldn’t. Let’s not fool ourselves, Diego, I gave you everything that is humanly possible to offer and we both know that. But still, how the hell do you manage to seduce so many women when you’re such an ugly son of a bitch?

The reason why I’m writing is not to accuse you of anything more than we’ve already accused each other of in this and however many more bloody lives. It’s because I’m having a leg cut off (damned thing, it got what it wanted in the end). I told you I’ve counted myself as incomplete for a long time, but why the fuck does everybody else need to know about it too? Now my fragmentation will be obvious for everyone to see, for you to see… That’s why I’m telling you before you hear it on the grapevine. Forgive my not going to your house to say this in person, but given the circumstances and my condition, I’m not allowed to leave the room, not even to use the bathroom. It’s not my intention to make you or anyone else feel pity, and I don’t want you to feel guilty. I’m writing to let you know I’m releasing you, I’m amputating you. Be happy and never seek me again. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want you to hear from me. If there is anything I’d enjoy before I die, it’d be not having to see your fucking horrible bastard face wandering around my garden.

That is all, I can now go to be chopped up in peace.

Good bye from somebody who is crazy and vehemently in love with you,

Your Frida

This is a love letter masquerading as a doozy of a break up letter. The references to amputation are both literal and metaphorical:

No doubt, she was sincere, but this couple, rather than holding themselves accountable, excelled at reversals. In the end the letter’s threat proved idle. Shortly before her death,  the two appeared together in public, at a demonstration to protest the C.I.A.’s efforts to overthrow the leftist Guatemalan regime.

Image via Brooklyn Museum

Once Frida was safely laid to rest, by which we mean rumored to have sat bolt upright as her casket was slid into the incerator, Rivera mused in his autobiography:

Too late now I realized the most wonderful part of my life had been my love for Frida. But I could not really say that given “another chance” I would have behaved toward her any differently than I had. Every man is the product of the social atmosphere in which he grows up and I am what I am…I had never had any morals at all and had lived only for pleasure where I found it. I was not good. I could discern other people’s weaknesses easily, especially men’s, and then I would play upon them for no worthwhile reason. If I loved a woman, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait.

via Letters of Note and the book, Letters of Note: Love.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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