Kahlo’s self-portraits are about her gaze, as subject matter, technique, and content. They dramatize sheer attentiveness. They tell us exactly what it’s like to be Frida Kahlo, with, I believe, a superbly indifferent confidence that we will not understand. She confides, but she won’t plead. She makes eye contact not with the viewer but with herself—watching herself watch herself, in an extended but closed loop. T. S. Eliot articulated the truth, regarding all successful art, of a dissociation of “the man who suffers and the mind which creates.” Make the man a woman, and Kahlo becomes singular for having engaged both parties at once—and only them. Looking at the pictures, you’re not there.
Tears flow from her eyes, but her face is dispassionate, as always. Her pain is not her.