Three Fridas (2015)

For clarinet, string quartet, and optional live painter
Duration: 15 minutes

I. Self-Portrait
II. Henry Ford Hospital
III. The Wounded Deer




By movement:

I. Self-Portrait

II. Henry Ford Hospital

III. The Wounded Deer


Program note:

Frida Kahlo was a woman of extraordinary resilience. Severely injured in a bus accident at age eighteen, she suffered from lifelong health problems, having as many as 35 surgeries as a result of the accident. She began to paint as an escape from her extreme pain. Throughout her career, she created over 140 paintings, many of them symbolizing her own physical and emotional wounds. Three Fridas focuses on three of these paintings: Self-Portrait (The Frame), Henry Ford Hospital, and The Wounded Deer.

I. Self-Portrait (The Frame) (1938) is an experimentation of mixed media, including aluminum and glass. Kahlo was known for her self-portraits, remarking, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” However, this self-portrait is unusually more bright and colorful than her others, symbolizing her hope and optimism even while experiencing constant pain.
II. Henry Ford Hospital (1932) depicts a naked Frida lying on a hospital bed. Kahlo suffered a miscarriage in Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Having pierced her uterus in the bus accident, she was unable to have a baby for the rest of her life. Connected by umbilical cords to her stomach, six figures hover around her hospital bed: a female torso, a snail, an orchid, a machine, a fractured pelvis, and a perfectly-formed male fetus. Each represent the pain and agony of the event and her shattered hopes of the future.
III. The Wounded Deer (1946) portrays a young stag with a head of Frida mortally wounded by arrows. Kahlo expresses her disappointment after her failed spinal operation which she had hoped would relieve her back pain, as well as her emotional wounds from her tumultuous marriage with fellow artist Diego Rivera. Yet the deer is still running despite her fatal wounds. Even through her horrific physical and psychological anguish, she keeps fighting to survive.

“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” – Frida Kahlo



February 15th, 2016
write HEAR, right NOW
(University of Michigan Student Composers Concert)
Performed by Jakob Lenhardt (clarinet), Grace Kawamura (violin), Lian Ojakangas (violin), Abigail Choi (viola), Julia Knowles (cello), Siena McKim (live painter), and Simone Shemshedini (visual artist)
Britton Recital Hall, Ann Arbor, MI