Frida Kahlo: Trauma, Abjection, and Affect

Artworks: The Wounded Deer

The Wounded Deer (1946) represented the disappointment Kahlo felt after getting her hopes up that her operation in New York would be a success and cure her of her pain. Unfortunately, she suffered with pain and depression when she returned to Mexico where she painted a young deer fatally wounded by arrows. In the background, there is some sky with lightning which could symbolise hope, however being surrounded by dead trees and broken branches – as well as being fatally wounded – the deer symbolises fear and desperation, and her loss of hope knowing that she will never be able to change her fate. The portrayal of only the trunks of the trees, and not the foliage, could symbolise that this situation in her life is not the end of it, the amputated branch of the tree shows a small glimpse at what is to come: more, whether grim or grand, this does not define her, it is merely temporary and there is always hope in the future.

As I look at the painting, I can feel her, Kahlo. Even with her stoic expression, I can feel the emotional pain caused by her husband’s infidelity and her physical pain caused by the trauma throughout her life and portrayed by the bloodied pierced skin. The vivid wounds make me feel like my soul has been penetrated, and confuses my emotions because, again, I feel like her sober expression – along with the blue sky and water in the background of her painting – show signs of hope. It makes me feel empathetic, although confident in her optimism. Even though it is not explicitly shown The Wounded Deer is merely wounded, not dead, and is therefore a sign of encouragement which influences me and which makes me feel self-assured.

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